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Iff 3 


Editedky tke Rt. Hon. H. A. L. Fisker, F .R.S . 

The aim of the volumes in this series is to provide a 
balanced survey, with such historical illustrations as are 
necessary, of the tendencies and forces, political, economic, 
intellectual, which are moulding the lives of contemporary 

Already Published : 

Ireland by Stephen Gwynn. 

Germany by G. P. Gooch. 

India by Sir Valentine Chirol. 

Russia by N. Makeev and V. O’Hara. 

France by Sisley Huddleston. 
egypt by George Young. 

Norway by G. Gathorne Hardy. 

turkey by Arnold Toynbee and K. P. Kirkwood. 

Greece by W. Miller. * 

England by Dean Inge. 

^ixaly by Luigi Villari. 

^ s l$5|jjby S. de Madariaga. 

AUSTRALIA by Professor W. K. Hancock. 

In Preparation ; 

Arabia by H. St. J. Philby. 

Argentina by Professor C. Haring. 

Poland by Professor Roman Dyboski. 

Canada by Professor Alexander Brady. 
south AFRICA by Jan H. Hofmeyer. 



Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford ; and Professor of 
Modern History In tlie University of Adelaide 

Loa Jon 

Ernest Benn Limited 


Aee. No. 


Class No. 

Book No. 

( 7-74 






Preface - - - - - - vii 




I. The Invasion of Australia - n 

II. Transplanted British - - - 37 

III. “Independent Australian Britons” - 54 

IV. Political Ideas and some Basic Policies - 69 



V. Protection - - - 89 

VI. The Shifting Balance of the Constitution - 103 

VII. State Socialism’ - 127 

VIII. Filling the Vast Open Spaces - - 146 

IX. “Standard of Living” - 177 

* t 



X. The Labour Party - 197 

XI. The Parties of Resistance - - 222 

XII. Foreign Policy - 239 







XIII. Some Aspects of Society in a New 

Country ----- 269 

XIV. Literature and Art - - - 290 

A Short List of Dates in Australia’s History - 315 
Notes on Books ----- 318 

Index ------ 322 


Map of Australia showing the Extent of the 

Known Artesian Basins - - - 18 

Average Annual Rainfall - - - 21 

Distribution of Sheep in Australia - 23 

Distribution of Cattle in Australia - 26 

Distribution of Wheat Acreage in Australia - 29 

Railways - - - - - 175 


My chief difficulty in writing this book has been to com- 
bine intellectual detachment with my emotional attach- 
ment to Australia. It was no use pretending that I was 
detached from the country and its people. But in the 
end I found that I was able to write of the Australians as 
an Englishman or a Frenchman would write of his 
countrymen living in a previous century. Sometimes, 
indeed, this device broke down. For example, when I 
had to explain how Australia stood in relation to the out- 
side world and the British Commonwealth of Nations, 
I found myself compelled to write “We” and not 

The method of the book is historical, and, had I not 
been writing for "a special series, I should have made 
some use of footnotes. In some parts of the book I have 
worked at first hand from sources which might interest 
students. But the greater part of the book (and especially 
the part dealing with Political Economy) has been built 
chiefly on the detailed investigations of other writers. I 
wish that I could acknowledge all the debts of which I 
am so conscious. Two of them are so great that I must 
refer to them here. Professor E. 0. G. Shann and Mr. 
F. Eggleston, with very rare generosity, made available 
to me works which are not yet published. Professor 
Shann’s book, Growth of the Australian Economy, is 
shortly to be published by the Cambridge University 
Press. It is a learned and very interesting economic his- 
tory of Australia, and I have made extensive use of it 




in my first chapter. Mr. Eggleston's book on State 
Socialism in Victoria forms the basis of Chapter VII. 

Many friends have done me the kindness of criticising 
my work, or parts of it, at some stage or other of its 
preparation. I owe a special debt to a small group of 
friends in Adelaide — Mr. C. A. S. Hawker, Professors 
A. Campbell and L. G. Melville, and Mr. H. Thomson. 
In Sydney I have had the criticism of Professor R. C. 
Mills, Mr. G. V. Portus, and Mr. Basil Burdett ; in 
Perth, that of Professor E. 0. G. Shann ; in Melbourne, 
that of Mr. Eggleston, Professor Scott, and Mr. and 
Mrs. Vance Palmer. In England I have been helped by 
Mr. D. 0. Malcolm and Mr. S. C. Leslie. And there 
are many others whose suggestions of information or 
ideas I have greatly appreciated. 

Some of these chapters were sketched in the form of 
articles for the New Statesman, and I have to thank the 
editor of that paper for permitting me to make use of an 
occasional paragraph. I also wish to thank the Common- 
wealth Statistician for permitting me t5 take maps from 
the official Year Book of the Commonwealth, and the 
Chancellor and Council of the University of Adelaide 
for many kindnesses. 


March, 1930. 





Many nations adventured for the discovery of Australia, 
but the British peoples have alone possessed her. For 
six generations they have swarmed inland from the sea, 
pressing forward to their economic frontiers, which are 
the only frontiers Australia knows. 

The Government of Pitt chose New South Wales as a 
prison, commodious, conveniently distant, and, it was 
hoped, cheap ; for prison labour, driven by prison dis- 
cipline, would surely be able to keep itself. The economic 
plan of the Government (if indeed there could be a true 
plan where there was little knowledge and no imagina- 
tion) aimed merely at a subsistence husbandry. This 
might have achieved a slow and painful occupation of 
the coastal districts of eastern Australia ; but it would 
never have created within the third generation an Aus- 
tralia that was free, British, and possibly — as the first 
Governor of New South Wales dared to prophesy — “the 
most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made.” 
That this marvel came to pass was due to the quality 
of Australian wool, which made the last-found and least- 
favoured of continents a fair field for the stupendous 
energies of England’s economic imperialism, and which 
to this day is the corner-stone of Australia’s economic 
and social edifice. 

England had once been famous for her wool ; but 
during the Industrial Revolution and the Napoleonic 
'Wars her first need was food. Robert Bakewell had 
already proved to her graziers that they could make 




more profit from the flesh of their flocks than from the 
fleeces. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, 
therefore, the English manufacturers bought most of 
their wool abroad, from the Spaniards and the Germans. 
Saxon merinos yielded wool of very fine quality which 
was gradually ousting Spanish wool from the English 
market ; but their owners had to struggle with the rigours 
of a severe winter climate. Here was Australia’s oppor- 
tunity, the grand occasion offered to the most wretched 
of colonies to pay its ransom and win its way to freedom 
and self-respect. Wool made Australia a solvent nation, 
and, in the end, a free one. The authentic founder of 
Australia’s independence is John Macarthur. In 1796 
he began his experiments in breeding sheep. In 1803 
he boasted that Australia contained “tracts of land 
adapted for pasture so boundless that no assignable 
limits can be set to the number of fine-woolled sheep 
which can be raised.” Sir Joseph Banks, who was 
reputed to know almost everything about Australia, dis- 
couraged this “mere theoretical speculation.” The 
colonists, no less practical, were content to grow their 
own corn and meat, and depend for the rest on England’s 
charity. So Macarthur fought his own battle. When in 
1822 wool from his sheep was judged equal to the finest 
Saxon, it became plain to all men that he had won it. 
From now on English manufacturers depended increas- 
ingly upon Australia, and English capital took firm con- 
trol of her destinies. 

From wool came the economic impulse which opened 
up the Australian continent. The history of Australian 
exploration is inseparable from the history of the pas- 
toral industry. While Macarthur was experimenting the 
colonists were already pushing out to find more room for 
their increasing flocks and herds. Nothing could be 

The Invasion of Australia 13 

more irritating than to be cramped on the coastal plain 
of the continent, shut out from a beckoning interior by 
a long wall of mountains, where every deceitful opening 
led only to blind unscalable cliffs. But in ii 813 three 
men forced their way up the ridges and over the crest 
to a westward view. Here at last were Macarthur’s 
lands of “no assignable limits.” For the next fifteen 
years the explorers pushed south and north, with the 
Great Dividing Range on their eastward side, until they 
reached the Southern Ocean at Port Philip Bay and 
forced a way through the northern mountains into what 
is now Queensland. But always, as they journeyed, 
their tracks cut across rivers flowing north-west and 
south-west. They had found ample spaces for their sheep 
— ampler spaces than their political masters thought 
good for them — but they were teased by a problem of 
geography. Where did these rivers find their outlet — in 
the Southern Ocean, or in the Indian Ocean, or in a 
great inland sea? In the summer of 1828-29 Captain 
Charles Sturt, the gentlest and bravest of Australia's 
explorers, traced the streams which flowed north-west to 
a greater river which carried their waters south, and 
which he named the Darling. In the following year he 
traced the Murrumbidgee to its junction with the Murray, 
and the Murray to its outlet in Lake Alexandrina, on the 
South Australian coast. If, as Sturt believed, the Darling 
added its waters to those of the Murray, then all the 
known parts of Australia west of the Dividing Range 
must be drained by one vast river-system. Here was 
sensational news. It came at a time when English 
capitalists, great and small, were dazzled at the prospects 
of Australian wool, and when the Wakefield theorists 
were pressing their new and original views on “Mr. 
Mother Country.” Great Britain seemed suddenly aware 



of Australia, and Australia became dramatically a many- 
centred continent. By 1836 Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, 
and Melbourne were all established. Already, in the far 
north, the first dismal garrisons were languishing. 

For the future, the great exploring expeditions were 
planned from the several distinct centres upon which the 
railways of the continent now converge. But the interior 
was not occupied by a series of organised marches. The 
explorers were scouts thrown out by the advancing army 
of pastoralists, who indeed were content most frequently 
to do their own scouting, to drive their flocks into the 
unknown and “squat” wherever they found good feed 
and water. 

“The mountains saw them marching by; 

They faced the all-consuming drought, 

They could not rest in settled land, 

Their faces ever westward bent 
Beyond the farthest settlement, 

Responding to the challenge cry 
Of ‘ better country farther out.’ ” 

The English Government viewed their disorderly advance 
with distaste. These waste lands of the Crown were an 
Imperial patrimony, and it was an intolerable trespass 
that they should he occupied without leave. The Govern- 
ment desired ‘ 1 systematic colonisation ; its watchword 
was “ concentration,” and Wakefield had taught it that 
by selling land at a sufficient price it could foster the 
orderly growth of a colonial gentry commanding the 
services of a steady stream of free immigrant labour. In 
the very year of Sturt’s great river voyage, the Govern- 
ment set to the squatters bounds which they must not 
pass, neither turn again to cover the earth. It would 
permit no settlement outside the Nineteen Counties, 
whose boundary was a rough semicircle, with Sydney as 

The Invasion of Australia 15 

its centre, and a radius of about 150 miles. “ It were as 
unauthorised an act of presumption for an Australian 
squatter to drive his flocks into the recesses of the un- 
trodden wilderness, without Her Majesty’s express sanc- 
tion first obtained, as for a Berkshire farmer to feed his 
oxen, without rent or licence, in the Queen’s demesne 
of Hampton Court.” This was the indignant fulmination 
of a Secretary of State ! But the colonial Governors 
knew that such fulminations were futile. ‘‘Not all the 
armies of England,” declared one of them, ‘‘not 100,000 
soldiers scattered throughout the bush — could drive back 
our herds within the limits of the Nineteen Counties.” 
No power, declared another, could keep Arabs of the 
desert within a circle drawn on the sands ; and no power 
could tether within fixed bounds the squatters of New 
South Wales. Yet, supposing that the attempt to con- 
fine them should miraculously succeed, what would be 
the result ? ‘ 1 The prosperity of the colony would be at 
an end.” In truth, New South Wales was flourishing on 
the demand for wool, and England’s manufacturers were 
beginning to flourish on the supply from New South 
Wales. The costs of orderly concentration at this stage 
of Australia’s history would have lost her the match with 
her Continental rivals. If all the world had boycotted 
English woollens and arrayed itself in silks and cottons 
the Wakefield dream might have become a reality, and 
Yorkshire might have stagnated with New South Wales. 
But it did not occur to England’s customers to deny them- 
selves quality for the sake of the systematic colonisers, 
and the grazing lands of Australia continued to be 
covered by a vast dispersion. 

Far away on the fringes of the dispersion adventurous 
.pastoralists skirmished with drought and raided the 
desert. As early as 1840 explorers had linked together 

1 6 Australia 

the new centres of life festooned around Australia’s 
coast ; but they had fallen back hopeless from the for- 
bidding interior. In the fifties, from the north and from 
the south, they renewed their assaults. The coastal 
range of Queensland, which faced so abruptly to the 
eastern ocean, fell away gently to the west in a long 
decline. Surely the watercourse which cut that endless 
slope must lead to the long-imagined inland sea? But 
the sea might be salt and dry. South Australians had 
learned to look with distaste upon their Lake Torrens. 
They imagined it to be a dismal horseshoe barrier barring 
the way of their northward expansion. But by 1858 
explorers, working from the south and from the north, 
had split this pretentious Lake Torrens into a series of 
lesser lakes, and the gateway to the interior lay open. 
The hopes of the pastoralists, the speculations of the 
geographers, and sheer excitement in the rivalry of a 
race, crowded the next four years with spectacular 
achievement and tragedy. By 1862 it had been proved 
that commercial union was possible between the north of 
Australia and the south, and within ten years Darwin 
and Adelaide were linked by the overland telegraph. 
From this new base the explorers scouted to the east 
and to the west ; to this new refuge they struggled from 
the west and from the east ; while all the time pastoralists 
and gold-seekers pursued their solitary explorations, and 
perished, and left no record. 

The story of these brave assaults upon the interior of 
Australia is a record of alternating hope and disillusion- 
ment. One explorer imagined a ferry service across Lake 
Torrens, and the next broke through its dry crust and 
sank into putrid mud ; an optimist christened Mount 
Hopeful, and a pessimist named Mount Hopeless ; a 
melancholy pilgrim protested that the mere sight of Lake 

The Invasion of Australia 17 

Eyre’s ugly emptiness created thirst in man and 
beast, and a prophet made answer : “ Our forefathers, 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not condemn a very 
rich country because water flowed not on its surface — 
they digged wells.” In the eighties well-sinking brought 
new hope to Australian pastoralists. The problem of the 
westward-flowing waters had presented itself in a new 
and startling fashion. Why was it that the River Darling 
discharged by surface flow only one-sixtieth of the waters 
which it received ? What happened to the generous falls 
of rain which descended on the western slopes of the 
Queensland watershed ? Could it be that Australia was 
served by buried rivers, by spreading water-beds pro- 
tected from the sun, more precious than rivers ? Drought 
in the eighties forced on these new explorations. A 
Government bore struck 2,000 feet below the surface a 
reservoir which gushed nearly 3,000 gallons in a day. 
In those days the doubters were confounded, and men 
far away in comfortable cities dreamed of irrigation and 
agriculture in Australia’s arid regions. The optimists 
began to preach, with the fervour of a tyrannical 
patriotism, their strange gospel of “Australia Un- 
limited.” For a time the Australians wasted their artesian 
waters as if the supply were indeed unlimited. Then the 
flow from many wells began to diminish. It became 
necessary to pump water which formerly had gushed. 
The pessimists returned to the attack. The artesian sup- 
plies, they argued, were plutonic — an accumulated store 
which man’s thriftlessness must speedily exhaust. This 
speculation has been proved erroneous. The water-beds 
are continually replenished by rains which fall upon the 
slopes of their ‘ 1 intake. ’ ’ But the replenishment may be 
only partial ; it has not generally kept pace with con- 
sumption and waste. Australians now understand that 



The Invasion of Australia 19 

their task is to make the most economical use of limited 
resources. Artesian water is nothing more than a precious 
mitigation of the aridity of sparse pastoral lands. 

Australian pastoralists have almost reached their 
farthest frontiers. The pressures which drive men to seek 
' ‘ better country farther out ’ ' are as strong as they ever 
were, and if to this day one-fifth of Australia remains 
completely unoccupied, that is because it is scarcely 
worth occupying. The discovery of Australia is now in 
the hands of the geographers, who have made clear to 
those who will listen many of the riddles which perplexed 
their predecessors, the explorers. Australia has the mis- 
fortune to present its greatest width to the tropic ; much 
of the continent lies in Saharan latitudes, and its arid 
belt is second only to that of North Africa in breadth. 
The zones of diminishing rainfall, which are marked on 
the weather maps, are also zones of diminishing habit- 
ability. The following figures should make clear, once 
and for all, the vanity of imagining that Australia, 
because she has as many square miles as the United 
States of America, can ever compare with that country 
in wealth and power. 

Average Annual Rainfall. 

Under 10 inches . 

>1 10-15 >> 

»> 15- 20 » 

I, 20-30 ,, 

, , 30-40 II • 

Over 40 ,, 

Square Miles. 
... 1,105,452 


Total 2,971,551 
(From Commonwealth Year Book, 1924, p. 58.) 



These figures of annual average rainfall, depressing 
though they are, do not tell the whole truth about Cen- 
tral and West-Central Australia; for a “fair” average 
rainfall of ten inches may not signify very much if the 
sun will evaporate ioo inches in the year, and even a 
good average is not so satisfactory if it is the product 
of erratic variations. No less important than the maps 
which mark the zones of diminishing average rainfall are 
the maps which mark the zones of diminishing seasonal 
regularity of rainfall. The alternating waves of optimism 
and pessimism in the history of inland exploration become 
intelligible when it is understood that seasonal differences 
are decisive, that the sameness of Australia is the same- 
ness of everlasting change, and that ‘‘to every new- 
comer the interior will show a different face.” 

There are in Central Australia frogs which have 
learned to store within themselves sufficient water to 
keep them alive through twelve or eighteen months of 
rainlessness. Men, by adapting themselves to their 
environment and modifying their environment to suit 
themselves, may achieve even greater marvels. But not 
even the cleverest frogs will swarm profusely in arid 
regions ; nor will the most resolute and ingenious men. 
One-half of Australia — including that fifth which even 
the most magnanimous geographers must class as desert 
— is arid country. It is the country of great sheep 
stations and (particularly in the north) great cattle 
stations. The farthest frontiers of Australian settlement 
must always be loosely held by that adventurous race of 
men who first dared, with their flocks and herds, to 
invade the unknown interior of the continent. 

# * # # # 

The Australians are not depressed by the contem- 
plation of their vast open spaces. The great majority of 

The Invasion of Australia 21 

Based on Maps of the Meteorological Department, 
Commonwealth of Australia . 



them live in a genial environment, and their hopeful gaze 
has been fixed upon nearer frontiers. Within these fron- 
tiers there has taken place a real settling, the “con- 
centration” of which the systematic colonisers dreamed. 

There was a forward-looking quality in the idealism 
of Wakefield and his friends. They saw that in England 
there was very little room, but that in the colonies there 
was “plenty of room.” Was it tolerable that the waste 
lands of Australia, held by the Crown as trustee for the 
entire British people, should be parcelled out into gigantic 
sheep-runs enjoyed by a few nomadic pioneers ? It was 
impossible to halt their westward march, impossible to 
refuse them temporary security of tenure, compensation 
for their improvements, and some limited rights of pre- 
emption ; but the Government must not mortgage to 
them the future of the continent as a field of settlement 
for the surplus population of the British Isles. The battle 
which raged in the forties between the Government and 
the squatters, between the present and the future, became 
in the second half of the nineteenth century the central 
issue of Australia’s democratic politics. For within the 
first decade of that half-century the rush to the goldfields 
of New South Wales and Victoria more than doubled 
Australia’s population, and when gold began to fail the 
diggers clamoured for land. They wanted yeomen’s 
holdings in the arable areas of the eastern colonies. 
Armed with their votes, they fell upon the monopolising 

For several decades the squatters more than held 
their own. During those decades Australian democracy 
experienced for the first time the exasperation which 
vexes the holders of political power who struggle against 
economic realities. The more these democrats legislated 
against the squatters, the more they strengthened the 



squatting monopoly. New South Wales offers the most 
striking illustration of their failure. An Act of 1861 
allowed an intending settler to select and occupy, before 
survey, a farm area of from 40 to 320 acres (the limit 
was later raised to 740) anywhere in the well-watered 
half of the colony. The settler must pay one-quarter of 
the price and reside on his selection for three years ; 
then, if he paid the balance, the land was his. This 
legislation must at the time have seemed decisive. 
Might not any man examine the squatter’s run, and 
choose his farm, and enjoy it in freehold? But there 
were gaps in the law which enabled the squatter to take 
full advantage of his economic power. By “dummy” 
selections he might close the river-fronts and pick out 
the water-holes ; or, if he failed in this, the banks would 
advance him money to buy out the selectors (some of 
them deliberate blackmailers) who had anticipated him. 
The banks did more. They were ready, wherever it was 
possible, to advance to the pastoralist the purchase 
money for his lease ; for the Government had not 
abolished sale by auction, and while it was spending as 
revenue the millions of pounds flowing in from the sale 
of the public estate, it saw no urgent need to arrest a 
process by which 96 men acquired the freehold of 
8,000,000 acres. In this way the legislation, which 
aimed to substitute agriculture for grazing, and small 
farmers for large landowners, had exactly the opposite 
effect. It was the same in Victoria. There, indeed, the 
Legislature made fewer mistakes, and retrieved them 
more quickly ; yet even in Victoria 100 men secured the 
freehold of a million and a half acres which were sold 
in the early sixties. 

The underlying reasons for this futile issue of the 
movement to “bust the big estates” must be sought, 

The Invasion of Australia 25 

not in the villainy of the squatters nor in the stupidity 
of the legislators, but in the ineluctable fact that large 
sheep-runs paid better than small farms. This was true, 
fifty years ago, even in districts which to-day are hos- 
pitable to a flourishing agriculture. South Australia was 
the exception which proved the rule. Democratic land 
legislation succeeded there because yeoman-farming was 
profitable there. The plains and highlands which stretch 
north and north-west from Adelaide offer exceptional 
natural advantages for wheat culture. Beyond these 
plains and highlands democratic legislation failed as 
signally as it failed in New South Wales. When the 
South Australian farmers tried to press beyond Goyder’s 
Line, which roughly marks the limit of twelve inches of 
rainfall, the favour of their Governments did not avail 
to save them from ruin. “The plough had outstripped 
the rain-clouds,” and the farmers retreated, leaving the 
land worse than they had found it. In Australia the sins 
of the too-venturesome farmer or pastoralist are visited 
on the land ; beyond the economic frontiers drawn by 
geographical controls men may make no lasting annexa- 
tions, but only devastating raids. 

It is, however, possible to rectify those frontiers. 
Science and invention and the resourcefulness of the 
practical farmer have succeeded where colonial Parlia- 
ments failed. They are still pushing the larger graziers 
further into the hinterland. Machinery, manures, and 
experimental breeding of seed have added millions of 
acres to the kingdom of wheat in Australia, and the end 
is not yet. The Ridley stripper, which as early as the 
forties was taking the heads of wheat from standing 
straw and threshing the grain by means of revolving 
beaters, reduced the cost of harvesting from 3s. to 3^d. 
a bushel, and is the ancestor of modem harvesting 



From the Official Year Boo\ of the Commonwealth, 1928. 

The Invasion of Australia aj 

machinery. The stump-jump plough, invented early in 
the seventies, jolted over lands where mallee scrub had 
been rolled down and burnt, and made possible the settle- 
ment of country which hitherto had been thought useless. 
These were Australian inventions. And, in tile nineties, 
when the average yield, even of South Australian acres, 
had fallen to six bushels, and pastoralists were working 
their way back into the heart of good wheat lands, the 
farmers were rallied at last by Australian leaders, who 
preached salvation through superphosphates and invented 
a machine which drilled in the fertiliser with each grain 
of seed. But the largest services to Australian agricul- 
ture were rendered by a solitary enthusiast, William 
Farrer. In 1886 he settled at Cuppercumberlong, in 
lovely country which the Commonwealth of Australia, 
twenty-two years later, chose for its own territory and 
capital city. There Farrer devoted himself to the task 
of breeding pedigree wheats adaptable to the endless 
variety of Australia’s agricultural climates. He produced 
wheats which would resist rust and bunt and smut, 
wheats which would flourish in the hotter and moister 
lands of the north, and which in the drier lands of the 
Mallee would utilise every drop of water falling upon 
them in the short season of winter rain. British experts 
deprecated "these abstruse experiments in cross-fer- 
tilisation.” Yet "these abstruse experiments” were, 
in their way, as decisive as were the ‘ ‘ mere theoretical 
speculation” which 100 years before had won for 
Australia her primacy in wool. The services rendered 
by Farrer to his adopted country are second only 
to those rendered by Macarthur. Thanks to his 
leadership, the frontier of wheat culture has been 
steadily forced forward. In New South Wales it has 
been traced tentatively at ten inches of rain in the grow- 



ing period ; in South Australia it reaches to the eight- 
inch line of winter rain, and beyond ; in Western Aus- 
tralia it has as yet hardly been drawn. Prophecy is an 
over-fashionable profession, and in Australia its besetting 
weakness is excessive optimism ; but even cautious cal- 
culators do not doubt that the Australians will be able 
to double or even treble the acreage of their wheat 

The advance of wheat-farming pushes back the large 
landowner, and in his stead there appears gradually a 
rural neighbourliness. But wheat does not altogether re- 
place sheep. The areas most suitable for the growth of 
wheat generally overlap the areas which yield the best 
return per acre in wool and mutton. In the very best 
wheat country the farmer will keep a flock of sheep, 
not only to make his economy “two-legged," but also 
because sheep are an essential agricultural implement. 
They manure the soil and make clean fallow. Australia’s 
economic frontiers are not drawn with any sharp defini- 
tion. As the average rainfall diminishes, farms increase 
in size and flocks become larger in proportion to the 
area under cultivation, until at last the advance-line of 
agriculture is reached, where grass and edible bushes 
are the main crop, and wheat is sown only in a field or 
two as a speculative venture. Here the farmer will be 
content if a fair harvest every few years will pay for his 

Similarly, the inner boundary between the mechanised 
factory-farms of the wheat-belt and the area of intensive 
farming in coastal lands cannot be sharply drawn. 
Rather, it is a fluctuating any-man's land suitable for 
wool production and mixed farming on holdings which 
diminish in size in proportion as the rainfall becomes 
heavier. The twenty-inch line of rainfall may perhaps 



be taken as marking roughly the inner margin of wheat 
farming. Between this line and the sea (but along great 
stretches of the south and west coasts the line itself lies 
far out to sea) there is a rich zone of timber and dairying, 
of orchards, maize, and sugar. Whereas the greater 
part of the wheat-belt has a short history of only one 
or two generations, there are many districts of this 
coastal zone which have behind them four or even five 
generations of occupation. In these districts there are 
domesticated landscapes and family settlement of the 
kind long known to Europe. Here may be expected the 
greatest concentrations of population. For these are the 
richest acres in Australia. Yet it is one of Australia’s 
paradoxes that these lovely hills and valleys and rich 
alluvial plains, where little Naboths till their soil secure 
from pastoral Ahabs, cannot face confidently the great 
world of mutual rivalry and service. Even on his own 
ground, Naboth, the favourite of democracy, enjoys but 
a precarious security, and raises his voice in a cry for 
help. Intensive agriculture generally aims at meeting 
the demands of neighbouring markets, and when these 
markets are glutted, the cultivator is often at his wits’ 
ends to know what to do with his surplus wares, par- 
ticularly if they are perishable. Australian sugar and 
wine, butter, cheese, raisins, and canned fruits could 
not enter the markets of the world unless they were sub- 
sidised by the Australian consumer and taxpayer. Thus 
. it is apparent that the solvency of Australia and the 
well-being of her coastal populations still rest on the 
foundations laid by John Macarthur and William Farrer. 

# # * # * 

The invaders of Australia have found their economic 
frontiers. Their mastery of the continent has followed 

The Invasion of Australia 31 

from their triumphs in pastoral and agricultural tech- 
nique. It also owes a great deal to the revolution in 
methods of transport. The voyage of the First Fleet to 
New South Wales occupied eight months and one day ; 
the vessels which plied to and fro between Australia 
and England in the forties of last century were expected 
to be on the water about 140 days ; the clippers which 
came into fashion about the turn of the half-century 
could complete the voyage in 90 days or less. When 
men were still marvelling at the record of the Ther- 
mopylse (63 days and 17 hours) steam was already sub- 
stituting itself for sail. The first voyage to Australia 
under steam had been made by the paddle-wheel ship 
Sophia Jane in 11830-31. Others followed her in the 
thirties ; but during the next decade there was a com- 
plete return to sail. Then, in 1852, the P. & O. Com- 
pany despatched its first steam vessel, and since that 
date the progress of invention and the opening of the 
Suez Canal have shortened the Australian voyage to 
four weeks. Simultaneously, the invention of refrigera- 
tion has made it possible to carry across the tropics 
Queensland beef and Victorian butter, apples from Tas- 
mania, and mutton from anywhere. . . . And while 
Australia has thus by sensational leaps come closer to 
the Northern Hemisphere, she has seen a similar shrink- 
ing of her continental distances. Although the story of 
the westward march of the squatters gives in the telling 
an impression of reckless speed, their progress from day 
to day was painfully slow. When they had settled on 
the Darling Downs or in the Riverina, the bullock teams 
which carried their bales of wool to the nearest port 
would seldom, under the most favourable circumstances, 
cover more than twelve miles in a day. In the second 
half of the nineteenth century British capital began the 

32 Australia 

task of providing Australia with a ‘ ' permanent outfit ’ ’ 
of rails and locomotives ; and where the trains ran the 
cost of transport fell sensationally. Beyond the reach 
of the railways, horses and bullocks continued to 
handle the heavy transport ; while the Bush coaches of 
Cobb and Co. (a contribution of American initiative, 
which has always been quick to understand the problem 
of transport in the back-blocks) guaranteed the efficient 
delivery of passengers and packets. The advent of the 
motor-car early in the twentieth century spelt doom to 
coach and bullock-waggon, and little less than doom to 
the horses of the eastern interior and the camels of the 
arid central regions. And now the aeroplane is threaten- 
ing a further revolution. 


The record of a bare six generations of British enter- 
prise in Australia would be incredible were it not for the 
fact that it falls wholly within the epoch of the stupen- 
dous energies let loose by the Industrial Revolution, 
which originated in England, and the Democratic Revo- 
lution, which blazed and spread from France. For good 
and for ill, Australia has had forced upon her the 
inheritance of all the ages. The continent has been 
peopled by a civilisation ready-made ; the British have 
imposed themselves upon it with their barbed-wire and 
railways and commercial journalism and modern liberal 
ideas. Their advance resembles the forward-scattering 
of a horde, and sometimes, like the onrush of a horde, 
it has been devastating. 

The Australian aborigines, shut off for centuries from 
the co-operative intelligence by which nations who are 
neighbours have created their common civilisation, never 
imagined that first decisive step from the economy of 

The Invasion of Australia 33 

the chase which would have made them masters of the 
soil. Instead, they fitted themselves to the soil, model- 
ling a complex civilisation of intelligent artificiality, which 
yet was pathetically helpless when assailed by the 
acquisitive society of Europe. The advance of British 
civilisation made inevitable ‘ ‘ the natural progress of the 
aboriginal race towards extinction 5 ’ — it is the soothing 
phrase of an Australian Governor. In truth, a hunting 
and a pastoral economy cannot co-exist within the same 
bounds. Yet sometimes the invading British did their 
wreckers’ work with the unnecessary brutality of stupid 
children. The aboriginal race has always possessed 
enthusiastic friends, but the friends have never agreed 
upon a consistent and practical policy for the black 
man’s preservation. It might still be possible to save a 
remnant of the race upon well-policed local reserves in 
Central and Northern Australia. This would cost hard 
thought and hard cash. Australian democracy is 
genuinely benevolent, but is preoccupied with its own 
affairs. From time to time it remembers the primitive 
people whom it has dispossessed, and sheds over their 
predestined passing an economical tear. 

The very soil has suffered from the ruthlessness of the 
invaders. The most precious possessions of Australia 
are her rivers, whose even flow is protected by the 
forests which stand around their mountain sources and 
the trees which line their banks. The invaders hated 
trees. The early Governors forbade them to clear the 
river-banks, but these prohibitions were soon forgotten, 
and in the second half of the nineteenth century tree- 
murder by ring-barking devastated the country on a 
gigantic scale. Provided that it is used with restraint, 
ring-harking is a useful method of clearing the land ; but 
the greed of the pioneers caused them to devastate 



3 4 

hundreds of thousands of acres of forest-land which they 
could not hope to till or to graze effectively. To punish 
their folly the land brought forth for them bracken and 
poor scrub and other rubbish. They ruined valuable 
timber to make a few wretched farms, but this was not 
the end of their folly. Placid low-banked rivers frequently 
gave place to water-channels which in rainy weather 
whirl along useless muddy waters threatening ruin to 
good alluvial lands, and which in time of drought parch 
into hard, cracked mud. Even the River Murray (one 
has heard the Danube quaintly described as “the 
Murray of Europe,’’ and this phrase suggests the value 
which Australians ascribe to their greatest waterway) 
has suffered an alarming increase of its winter velocity 
and decrease of its summer flow through the destruction 
of forests around its head waters. 

The advent of the white man with his ready-made 
civilisation has violently disturbed the delicate balance 
of nature established for centuries in the most isolated 
of continents. The Englishman eats out the aborigine. 
English trout displace the native black-fish from moun- 
tain streams. And, to compensate for the rapid extinc- 
tion of the native bear (which performed a useful service 
by checking the spread of mistletoe, a great enemy of 
trees), Australia has been presented with the rabbit. 
The ways of the land are strange. The first rabbits 
came out with the First Fleet, but it was not until the 
second half of the nineteenth century, which on many 
counts must be judged the epoch of devastation, that 
the rabbits multiplied and became a scourge. Perhaps 
the imitative colonial gentry hoped to introduce English 
game laws with English game. About i860 a man was 
fined £10 for shooting a rabbit belonging to Mr. John 
Robertson. A few years later Mr. John Robertson was 

The Invasion of Australia 35 

spending thousands of pounds in an effort to clear his 
land of the "pest.” In the more arid parts of Australia 
(if one may trust those who give witness before Parlia- 
mentary Commissions) the rabbit has developed a long 
neck and a miniature hump 1 It can, at any rate, go for 
long periods without water ; and it can live on bark. 
Thus it kills the scrub by ring-barking it, and, in addi- 
tion, destroys millions of seedlings. It "eats the heart 
out of pastures ” by its habit of selective feeding, taking 
the best grasses and leaving the worst. It has made new 
deserts. A writer in the Australian Encyclopedia has 
estimated that "with the removal of the rabbit the 
capacity of the Commonwealth for carrying live stock 
would probably be increased by twenty-five per cent.” 
This, surely, is an exaggeration. In all good pastoral 
lands the rabbit is now under control. Yet the expensive 
assaults upon the pest, together with the loss from the 
deterioration of pastures, must have cost the Australians 
hundreds of millions of pounds. 

Australia has suffered too much from the greed or 
ignorance of her invaders. And yet, if a balance could 
be struck, it would probably be reckoned that alien men 
and animals and vegetation have enriched the soil more 
than they have impoverished it. "It is the browsing 
animal that makes the sward,” and the trampling of 
hundreds of millions of sharp little hoofs has consolidated 
illimitable grass-lands for the use and comfort of man. 
Professor Stapledon, whose Tour in Australia and New 
Zealand is a fascinating history of the making of our 
fields and pastures by the patient toil of man and beast, 
bids us take comfort from the thought that "Land is 
unique among raw materials because, abuse it as we 
may, given time and knowledge it is generally possible 
to rectify even the profoundest errors of the past. ’ ’ From 



the flame and ruin of dreary scrub arise fertile corn- 
lands and a rich permanence, and the wounds which 
the violence of the British inflicted upon Australia are 
healed as impatience to possess slackens into a true part- 



The Australian people has sprung from transplanted 
British stock. During the first forty or fifty years of 
the transplanting, this stock was of predominantly poor 
quality ; but throughout the last ioo years it has been 
generally clean and vigorous. 

The tendency of a folk to idealise its origins is universal 
among mankind, and may be observed even in Australia, 
where the popular imagination has created the legend of 
a typical convict “sent out for snaring a rabbit.” This 
legend neatly reverses the positions of the convict and of 
the judge who sentenced him, for in Australia it is con- 
sidered not only legitimate, but even virtuous to snare 
rabbits. Thus the champion of the convicts invariably 
opens his case with an indictment of the vices of England’s 
aristocratic social system and brutal penal laws. 

“The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common, 

But leaves the greater villain loose 
Who steals the common from the goose.” 

It may well be true that the library which the Society 
for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge so tactfully 
selected for the first convict fleet — 200 Exercises against 
Lying, 50 Cautions to Swearers, 100 Exhortations to 
Chastity, 100 Dissuasions from Stealing, 50 Religions 
made Easy — might have circulated with equal appro- 
priateness among the higher orders of English society. 
It is undeniably true that these exhortations and dis- 




suasions were most inappropriately addressed to Scottish 
martyrs and Irish rebels and the Dorsetshire labourers, 
who dared to demand ten shillings a week, and the poach- 
ing convicts, who were, perhaps, “the best villagers in 
England.” Thanks to the stupid savagery of the penal 
code, some really good raw material for nation building 
was transported to New South Wales ; there were among 
the convicts men of worth who won for themselves an 
honourable place in colonial society. Moreover, the most 
brutal of England’s criminals were generally sent to the 
gallows rather than to N ew S outh W ales . So much may 
be conceded. But an examination of the records of 
transportation at any period between 1790 and 1840 
would show that spirited poachers and political prisoners 
and even picturesque intelligent villains were but a small 
leaven in the lump, which was wretched and listless and 
forlorn. Were it possible to compel the prison warders 
of this past age to produce for our inspection a ' ‘ typical ’ ’ 
transported convict, they would show us, not the country- 
man who snared rabbits, but the Londoner who stole 
spoons. Robespierre’s belief that virtue is in a minority 
on this earth is not, let us hope, justified by the normal 
behaviour of ordinary humanity ; but it would have 
appeared an obvious and exact explanation of the state 
of society in early New South Wales. 

The English Government believed, like Robespierre, 
that this outnumbered and threatened virtue must arm 
herself with terror — “ salutary terror ” ; it is the phrase 
of a Secretary of State. But even Secretaries of State 
discovered, after some decades of nauseating experi- 
ment, their system’s “inefficiency in deterring from 
crime and remarkable efficiency in still further corrupt- 
ing those who undergo punishment.” Reformers had 
persistently asserted that the system encouraged a three- 

Transplanted British 39 

fold deterioration — of the convicts, of the prison officials, 
and of the free colonists. At the head of the reformers 
must be ranked Australia’s greatest Governor, 
Macquarie, who throughout the second decade of the 
nineteenth century treated the convicts as “children of 
misfortune who, if rightly ruled, might reasonably hope 
to regain their right rank in society.’’ But Macquarie’s 
policy was reversed in 1820, and throughout the latter 
decades of convictism in Australia, the system was en- 
forced in its most baneful form. Its results may well be 
summarised in the words of Henry Parkes, who in 1839 
escaped from grinding poverty in England, landed at 
Sydney with a wife and child and three shillings, and 
began the long battle which won him first place among 
colonial Statesmen: “I have been disappointed in all 
my expectations of Australia,’’ he wrote, “except as to 
its wickedness ; for it is far more wicked than I had con- 
ceived it possible for any place to be, or than it is possible 
for me to describe to you in England.” 

It is quite impossible to measure with precision the 
effects of this wretched beginning on the later history of 
Australia. The answer to the first obvious question — 
what proportion of the Australian people are descended 
from the convicts’? — can hardly be guessed. An 
American professor has argued that it must be small; 
for, admitting "that 130,000 offenders were transported 
"to Australia, the proportion of females was, during the 
first thirty years, no more than 16 per cent., and through- 
out the whole period it remained very low. Moreover 
(we must forget the wicked prolific Jukeses and re- 
member only the prolific virtuous Bowdlers), many of 
the female convicts were so very depraved that they were 
incapable of bearing children. ... An Australian 
professor, on the other hand, considers thaf "the 



descendants of convicts must form a large proportion of 
a population which at the present time (he is discussing 
New South Wales) is little more than two million. This 
is a fact that should give rise to a feeling of exultation, 
for it is one of the very best and most hopeful facts in 
all human history ... a brilliant argument for the 

It is, indeed, a well-attested fact that the children of 
the convicts were in every way more virtuous, more 
adequate, than their parents. A very intelligent observer 
wrote of them in 1827 : “They are a fine interesting 
race, and do honour to the country whence they origin- 
ated . . . and, indeed, what more can be said in their 
favour, than that they are little tainted with the vices so 
prominent among their parents?” It would appear that 
their convict parents had not inherited and did not trans- 
mit an undue proportion of original sin ; rather, they were 
in the main unfortunates whose growth had been stunted 
in a wretched soil. In the new soil, the health and vigour 
of the stock reasserted itself. This, at any rate, seems a 
reasonable supposition, for definite proof is impossible. 
Inquirers who love statistics might indeed be tempted to 
juggle with the figures of serious crime in Australia, 
which are very definitely higher for New South Wales 
than for any other State. But then they are compara- 
tively low for Tasmania, which was saturated with con- 
victs of the worst description. It may be retorted that 
Tasmania has steadily exported a large proportion of her 
population to the mainland ; but, in truth, the whole 
Australian continent is overrun by an astonishingly mobile 
and shifting population. The descendants of convicts 
may be anywhere. We may occasionally suspect that 
the worst convict blood is represented in the underworld 
gangs of our great cities ; but this suspicion is of small 

Transplanted British 41 

importance when set beside the attested fact that the 
Australian population does not fall below the high average 
of respect for law which is attained in British communities. 
All the clues which seem at first sight to suggest the 
visible persistent influence of convictism upon Australian 
life prove in the end to be misleading. There is, for 
example, the language clue. "A number of the slang 
phrases of St. Giles’s Greek,” remarked a visitor to 
early Sydney, ‘ ' bid fair to become legitimatised in the 
dictionary of this colony : plant, swag, pulling up, and 
other epithets of the Tom and Jerry school are estab- 
lished — the dross passing as genuine, even among all 
ranks.” Two at least of these three words are still 
current in Australia, and retain their original meaning. 
Australians who consult the ‘‘Dictionary of the Flash 
Language,” which a transported convict, James Hardy 
Vaux, printed in his Memoirs, will be surprised to dis- 
cover the disreputable origin of words and expressions 
which they never question. We still use many of the 
phrases of early Sydney. But, then, so do the English. 
Many of them occur in Dickens, and almost all may be 
found, with English references, in the dictionaries of 
English slang. Thus the philological clue, like all the 
others, is inconclusive. Yet we may suspect that there 
has come down to us, by subtle hidden channels, a vague 
unmeasured inheritance from those early days. Ideas 
once held by the military governors and their subjects 
about the functions of government and the economic 
ordering of society are to-day widely held in Australia, 
and though the gold-rushes of the mid-nineteenth century 
begin a new era in the history of the Australian people, 
the historian will not be readily persuaded that they mark 
a complete break with the past. 

“ Can you not tempt some of our superabundant popu- 



lation to go to New South Wales ?” “Is there no way 
for a man to get there but by stealing ?” Questions like 
these became common about 1820. During the pre- 
ceding generation there had been thin trickles of free 
immigration into New South Wales ; in the time of 
Macquarie the English Government, so assiduous in 
shipping thither persons of certified bad character, had 
quaintly demanded certificates of good character and 
worldly prosperity from volunteer settlers. An increasing 
class of “respectable monied men” diversified the 
economic and social life of the colony. But, after thirty- 
two years of British occupation, the free population of 
the colony (exclusive of “ emancipists ”) was only 1,307. 
For the next ten years the average annual arrival of free 
settlers was 867, and by 1830, when the economic possi- 
bilities of Australia were already widely realised in 
England, the colony was hungry for additional supplies 
of labour. At the same time, English economists and 
philanthropists were becoming increasingly anxious about 
“ our superabundant population.” 

We may conveniently approach our examination of the 
new immigration by considering the ideas of four persons 
who were closely interested in its prospects. 1 The first of 
them, Wilmot Horton, was chiefly concerned with 
Canada, but he is the spiritual father of a family of 
British propagandists who to-day make plans for Australia 
or any other dominion ; among his descendants are the 
members of the Industrial Transference Board — and Sir 
James Foggart. Horton cast a gloomy Malthusian eye 
over the ' ‘ redundancy of population ’ ’ in the British Isles, 

1 For what follows I wish to acknowledge my special debt 
to an unpublished History of Free Immigration into New 
South Wales, by Myra Willard. It is in the Fisher Library, 

Transplanted British 43 

the hunger and squalor of the lower classes. Surely 
there was relief for this misery in the vast open spaces of 
the colonies P To each poor emigrant he would give 
sustenance for a year, implements, and 100 acres ; after 
five years the Government might claim a quit-rent of 
twopence an acre. The settler must he “firmly fixed on 
the soil ; instead of taking his chance of obtaining sub- 
sistence, instead of being like a plant thrown down on the 
earth either to take root or be withered by the sun, he 
would be like a young and vigorous tree, set by a careful 
hand, with all the advantages of soil and climate. ...” 
The vision is a very attractive one, but Australian ex- 
perience has proved repeatedly that “the careful hand ” 
of the State is too clumsy to perform this delicate work, 
except at inflated costs, which in the long run cripple the 
country’s capacity to absorb Great Britain’s redundancy 
of population. Moreover, as Sir Robert Peel pointed out, 
“the greatest objects of sympathy might well be 
the least suitable objects for emigration.” Horton’s 
schemes, in so far as they were applied, degenerated 
into the process of “shovelling out paupers,” which 
parodied and failed to satisfy the demands both of Great 
Britain and the colonies. The plain fact is that altruistic 
schemes of emigration will never succeed on a large scale. 
Only if they are under the direct control of men who will 
buy their success with money and personal devotion (the 
work of Kingsley Fairbridge is the noblest Australian 
example) can they hope to escape failure. They must be 
content with relieving the distress of individuals ; they 
cannot aspire to relieve the nation. 

There was, in fact, a danger that English sentimentality 
would rival English brutality in saddling Australia with a 
population of miserables. Between 1831 and 1836 an 
attempt was made to redress the discrepancy between the 



sexes by shipping out special cargoes of single women. 
The selectors tried to secure good, healthy, country 
lasses ; but Australia did not attract this class of young 
woman, and the greater part of the shiploads was made 
up from workhouses and charitable institutions. The 
temptation not to be over-strict in granting and criticising 
references of good character was irresistible, and the 
Sydney Morning Herald complained that these women 
“added pollution to a society of convicts.” The superior 
ladies of New South Wales were so scandalised at their 
behaviour that they would not even form a committee to 
help them find employment ; when they landed almost 
penniless from the ships (one consignment of sixty-four 
girls had fourteen shillings between them) they were 
bundled into “the Bazaar” to be leered at by the 
rabble and looked over by prospective employers. Under 
these conditions their chances of remaining or becoming 
virtuous were little greater than those of the convict 

Thanks to the efforts of one extraordinary woman, New 
South Wales raised itself from this trough of iniquity. 
Mrs. Caroline Chisholm was the wife of an officer in the 
Indian Army ; she came to Australia in 1838, and her 
practical compassion was worth all the indiscriminate 
philanthropy of a thousand Hortons. It is surprising that 
her story has not been pounced upon by one of our clever 
modem specialists in the short biography ; but probably 
her character is too substantial and balanced to lend itself 
to their mildly malicious irony. Her precepts, set in their 
context of colonial iniquity, are sober, unexaggerated 
truth. ' ‘ If the paternal Government wishes to entitle 
itself to that honoured appellation, it must look to the 
materials it may send as a nucleus for the formation of a 
good and virtuous people. For all the clergy you can 

Transplanted British 45 

appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books 
you can export, will never do much good without what 
a gentleman in that colony calls ‘ God’s police ’ — wives 
and little children.” She wrote this to Earl Grey, 
Secretary of State for the Colonies. Her astonishing 
achievement consists in the fact that she made Secretaries 
of State and Governors and the leaders of the colony 
listen to her ; and she succeeded in this because her deeds 
were so much more important than her words. It is 
scarcely an exaggeration to assert that Mrs. Chisholm 
established the dignity of womanhood and of the family 
in New South Wales. She claimed in later life that she 
personally had been the means of settling there 11,000 
souls (another estimate says 14,000) ; she was directly 
the founder of the system of family group settlement, 
and, indirectly, of the nomination system, which has been 
the most successful method of immigration. One is 
tempted to acclaim her as the only writer upon migration 
questions who has never perpetrated a word of nonsense. 
”... We cannot really be great as a nation,” she said, 
“except every man be made to feel that his individual 
conduct is thrown into the national scale, unless he is 
made sensible that he forms one of the Common- 
wealth. . . . Much of our nationality, much of our 
character as a people, rests upon self-respect, upon the 
opinion formed of us by the neighbour or the public.” 
Or, again, opposing vast schemes of the Horton type 
and insisting that persons who wanted to emigrate made 
the only good immigrants — “Nothing but what is 
voluntary is deserving the name of national.” Mrs. 
Chisholm had in her the root of the matter. 

It will readily be perceived that the regeneration of 
Australia’s society accompanied and was dependent upon 
its economic achievements. England began to send to 



her colonists of the right quality, because she had begun 
to send to England goods of the right quality. Thus the 
work of Macarthur and his imitators bore fruit in the 
more hopeful beginnings of two new colonies. The settlers 
who went to Perth in 1829 included, according to 
Governor Stirling, “ more than the usual number of men 
of property and family.”- “The calibre of the early 
settlers,” wrote Sir George Grey of his former subjects 
in South Australia, “gave me trust in the new Anglo- 
Saxondom of the Southern Hemisphere. There was a 
worth, a sincerity, a true ring about them which could 
not fail of great things.” Mention of South Australia 
suggests the third outstanding name in the migration 
history of this period, that of Edward Gibbon Wake- 
field, who in 1829 propounded from Newgate prison 
those theories of “ systematic colonisation ” which began 
a new chapter in the history of British colonial policy. 
Wakefield’s doctrines have been so often expounded and 
criticised that it is unnecessary to discuss them here ; but 
it is due to his memory, which has not been greatly 
honoured in Australia, to state clearly that his achieve- 
ments far outweighed his mistakes. He, too, had the root 
of the matter in him, and was a 1 ‘ necessary ’ ’ man at this 
stage of Australian history. He opposed transportation 
and the shovelling out of paupers, and insisted that emi- 
grants should be carefully selected, that there should be 
an equal proportion of the sexes, and, for preference, a 
predominance of young married couples. He has been 
sneered at for wishing to foster a colonial gentry, but 
Australia 100 years ago sorely needed more than a 
sprinkling of gentlemen. If he hankered after a society 
which would reproduce in some degree the English model, 
he also desired that this society should enjoy English 
freedom, and he looked forward to a time when the self- 

Transplanted British 47 

governing colonies of Australia would control their own 
waste lands. He did not understand the pastoral industry, 
and his economic programme was in detail fantastic- 
ally doctrinaire; yet his approach was sound, for he 
realised that immigration into a colony was dependent 
upon the prosperity of that colony, and that this 
prosperity was dependent on a just equilibrium between 
the various instruments of production. Moreover, 
it was largely due to his advocacy that an efficient 
organisation was established in London for selecting 
immigrants and for equating the supply of labour with the 
colonial demand, and it was he who discovered in the 
Land Fund a source of revenue for defraying the ex- 
penses of migration. Between 1836 and 1850 there was 
spent from this Fund one and three-quarter millions in 
assisting 75,000 settlers to reach New South Wales. In 
1828 the free population of New South Wales (including 
emancipists) was 20,930 ; in 1841 it was 101,749. 

During the thirties and early forties the demand for 
labour was at its height', and the pastoral industry, directly 
or indirectly, absorbed the bulk of it ; New South Wales 
was actually importing one-third of its wheat. In 1840 
transportation (except to Van Diemen’s Land) was 
abolished, and the Australian colonies began to march 
rapidly towards political freedom. But were their social 
foundations sufficiently strong to support the superstruc- 
ture of self-governing institutions ? Self-government is 
not easily reconcilable with a society that is split into 
two well-defined opposing interests, and the feverish im- 
migration of the thirties and forties, directed as it had 
been to supplement and supplant the labour of assigned 
convicts, had done little to provide a class of settlers 
capable of filling the gap between the capitalists and the 
wage earners. It was the self-imposed mission of our 



fourth personality, Dr. J ohn Dunmore Lang, to provide 
Australia with a middle class. Dr. Lang himself possessed 
all the Scottish middle-class virtues ; he came to Australia 
in 1823, and for years was a most powerful and healthy 
influence upon Australian life. He had achieved a good 
education and the ministry, and in Australia he was an 
indefatigable founder of schools and churches. He be- 
lieved in learning and Protestantism, and disbelieved 
strongly in the English governing classes which, so it 
seemed, Wakefield and his disciples wished to reproduce 
in Australia. When the gold-diggers invaded Australia 
he rejoiced in their radical and levelling influence upon ' ‘ a 
land where already perhaps more than in any part of the 
world 'a man’s a man for a’ that.’ ” He had already 
made many voyages to Great Britain in search of in- 
dependent self-respecting mechanics and, still more, of 
sturdy farmers ; and, since the exploitation of land in 
Australia tended to follow large-scale methods, he under- 
took inquiries into crops likely to attract and reward his 
family-settlers. It was he who first demonstrated the 
possibility of occupying coastal Queensland by means of 
a small-scale cultivation of cotton and sugar. His tire- 
less aggressive energy was directed by a heterogeneous 
collection of prejudices, enthusiasms, and nationalisms, 
which somehow or other blended into something that was 
significant and new — Australian nationalism. It appeared 
to him "to be unquestionable that the Scottish nation 
was selected by Divine Providence after its deliverance 
from ' the Babylonish woe ’ to . . . spread the know- 
ledge and practice of pure and undefiled religion over all 
countries and thereby to prepare the nations for the 
coming of the Messiah.’’ In Australia the Scottish 
nation had been careless of its mission ; Papistical Irish- 
men had of recent years swarmed disproportionately into 

Transplanted British 49 

the colony. Lang demanded (vainly, for the Irish, strain 
in the Australian people to-day is little less than 25 per 
cent.) that Antipodean Britain should reproduce exactly 
the racial blend of the British Isles. Antipodean Britain 
meant to Lang more than Australia ; one paltry continent 
was not sufficient for his proselytising Scottish Calvinism. 
Good Scotchmen must make the sluggish English under- 
stand that they had a mission to extend the dominion of 
Australia over all the islands of the Pacific, “not only 
for the benefit of all these Australian colonies, but for 
the promotion of the interests of civilisation and Chris- 
tianity throughout the vast Pacific Ocean. ... It was 
simply and solely the expenditure of British money in the 
founding of this colony that has rendered it possible for 
any other Power in the world to plant colonies in the 
Pacific, and why should we permit any such foreign 
Power to enter upon our labour as the French have done 
in Tahiti and New Caledonia ? . . .” With magnificent 
impudence, Lang asserted that the independent Britons 
of Australia were worthier and more competent to advance 
the interests of God and His chosen people in the Pacific 
Ocean than were those detested governing classes who in 
England blew neither hot nor cold. All his discordant 
prejudices and passions found their vent in one protesting 
blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regiment of 
England, in a defiant vindication of “ Freedom and In- 
dependence for the Golden Lands of Australia.” 

The lands of Australia had become golden in 1851 
and Lang, understanding that those who were mighty in 
the colonies would now be abased, offered his thanks to 
God, who had marked the unworthiness of Papistical 
Spaniards to enjoy His gift of gold and had transferred 
it to a Protestant community. Within ten years the rush 
for gold almost doubled the population of New South’ 


50 Australia 

■Wales, and multiplied sevenfold the population of Vic- 
toria. By the gradual growth of sixty-three years the 
Australian colonies had attained in 1851 a population of 
405,000 ; in 1861 their population was 1,145,000. The 
squatters and the established gentry of the cities 
murmured against this invasion ; in the first exciting 
years it was impossible to hire reliable labour. Everybody 
was off to the diggings. An archdeacon was forced to 
lay the table while his wife cooked the dinner, and a 
governor, finding no craftsman to repair the gold chain 
of his eyeglass, gloomily predicted “ a total alteration in 
all the relations of society.” 

The gold-rushes did in fact violently interrupt the 
gradual, steady growth of the Australian colonies, and 
later generations of democratic Australians have loved 
to look upon them as a time of new and true beginnings — 
the one epoch in their past in which History has fashioned 
for them a mirror, so that they may behold themselves 
reflected as they would be, as they surely are. They 
have acclaimed the diggers as their Pilgrim Fathers, the 
first authentic Australians, the founders of their self- 
respecting, independent, strenuous national life, the 
fathers of their soldiers. For this reason alone the epoch 
of the gold-rushes would be decisive in the history of 
Australia ; for respect of ancestry is a spiritual necessity 
in every nation, even the youngest, and the legend is 
more important than the fact. In truth, the legend of the 
Australian diggers does not greatly distort the fact. 
Despite the generous sprinkling among them of out- 
landish foreigners, low-born rascals, and well-born ne’er- 
do-wells ; despite their red or blue flannel shirts, gay 
handkerchiefs, high boots, and brass-buckled belts, their 
straw hats, their rings, their extensive beards and 
moustaches, the new settlers were predominantly 

Transplanted British 51 

vigorous, independent, law-abiding Britishers who (to 
the intense satisfaction of Dr. Lang) struggled for decent 
comfort when they were disappointed of riches, derided 
the colonial gentry, demanded democracy, and observed 
the Sabbath “with order and decorum.” As they threw 
themselves upon the land, scouring the river flats, scar- 
ring the sides of rugged mountains, forcing their way to 
the heads of tortuous gullies, so they imposed themselves 
upon colonial society, casting down its barriers, fighting 
for a foothold in its multitudinous crannies, pushing their 
way towards its summits, where a noisy crowd of the 
new-rich flaunted its good fortune. The little exclusive 
circles, which in Melbourne and Sydney had politely 
imitated English gentility, looked askance at the lucky 
upstarts — and intermarried with them. In the second 
half of the nineteenth century Australia became familiar 
with a new vulgarity and a new vigour. 

It would be a mistake, nevertheless, entirely to accept 
the digger legend. Democracy, nationalism, even trade 
unionism, had their beginnings before the gold-rush, and 
would — gradually and less dramatically — have reached 
their maturity without it. It is true that this maturity 
might have been very different from that which Australia 
has achieved. The ‘ ‘ digger spirit ’ ’ is perhaps the typical 
Australian spirit. But the ideal digger — the independent 
fellow seeking his own fortune and paying his own fare — 
is not the typical Australian settler. Even in the gold- 
rush period, more than 100,000 assisted immigrants 
entered New South Wales alone, and it may safely be 
asserted (despite the impossibility of calculating with 
any exactness the numbers of those who paid their own 
way to Australia) that the assisted were in a decisive 
majority throughout the second half of the nineteenth 
century, as they were throughout the first. Since the 


5 2 

foundation of British power in Australia, more than a 
million people have been assisted to her shores, and it 
seems plain that their descendants must outnumber the 
descendants of unassisted settlers. Fantastic attempts 
have been made to classify the habits and tendencies of 
the Australians according to the two chief categories of 
their immigrant ancestors. The assisted immigrants, it 
has been suggested, fathered the town-dwellers ; the un- 
assisted produced the great-hearted fellers of forest and 
conquerors of drought. For such a suggestion there is 
not one shred of evidence, and there is no reasonable 
justification for the implied opinion that the assisted have 
been an inferior stamp of men. Australia has been forced 
to compete with North America for the colonists she has 
needed ; by offering them assistance to reach her shores 
she has done no more than compensate her disadvantage 
of remoteness and place herself on a level with her com- 
petitors. Having done so much, she has appointed agents 
in Great Britain to satisfy themselves on her behalf that 
those who offer themselves are of reasonable moral and 
physical health, and fit for the tasks that await them ; 
or, by accepting applicants vouched for by persons (other 
than employers) already in the colony, has placed re- 
sponsibility on the shoulders of those who have something 
to lose by uncritical benevolence. In this way she has 
secured for herself fair average quality. 

It would be unreasonable to seek for more. Settlement 
in Australia is not a forlorn hope, and the descendants of 
last century’s immigrants prove by their very appearance 
that the sunny spaciousness of Australia may be trusted 
for something. Exactly what physiological effects trans- 
plantation to this new environment has had upon the 
emigrant British stock it is impossible to say. Periodical 
discussions at medical congresses lead little further 

Transplanted British 53 

than the enumeration of visible symptoms — the earlier 
maturity of adults, a predominance of eyes brown and 
grey (Anglo-Saxon blue seems to be rare in Australia), 
the frequency of sharp noses and thin lips. Indeed, there 
is very little evidence to support the popular belief that 
environmental changes produce somatic changes in the 
character of races. And yet it is reasonable to speak of 
an “Australian type.” The Australian is a product of 
the blending of all the stocks and regional types which 
exist within the British Isles, nourished by a generous 
sufficiency of food and breathing-space and sunshine. 
Nor are there in Australia variations of type which follow 
the lines of class, as they do in England. There were no 
battalions in the A.I.F. where officers and men might be 
distinguished by their very inches. 

It is recorded in the official Y ear Book of the Common- 
wealth that 98 per cent, of Australians are British sub- 
jects, born either in Australasia or the British Isles. 
This does not mean that no more than 2 per cent, of 
Australians are of foreign origin. “Non-Britishers’’ 
have played a far from negligible part in developing 
Australia, and they and their children number more than 
10 per cent, of the population. Yet they have been so 
easily assimilated that ’the Australians, misreading the 
official figures, have persuaded themselves that they are 
“98 per cent. British ” in blood — far more British, they 
are wont to boast, than that diluted (and therefore in- 
ferior) mixture in the British Isles. The confusion of 
stocks and classes in Australia has, in fact, all but 
obliterated the physical and psychological subtleties 
which diversify the demographic landscape of England, 
Ireland, Scotland, and Wales ; if such a creature as the 
average Briton exists anywhere upon this earth, he will 
be found in Australia. 



Men do not emigrate in despair, but in hope. Among 
the various types of British emigrant none is less typical 
than the listless, reluctant pauper shovelled out in the 
early thirties of last century. There is very little room in 
the old country but plenty of room in the colonies, and 
the men who come to Australia come in search of room ; 
they expect a larger return on their capital and a higher 
price for their labour ; they leave a land where oppor- 
tunities seem to be shrinking for a land where the ex- 
panding chances may lead them anywhere. Some of them 
carry away a grudge against the homeland. Yet even 
the bitterness of the stunted and the starved is mingled 
with a wistful affection for the country of their misery 
and birth ; so that amid surroundings new and profoundly 
alien they strive to erect the old familiar landmarks. 
Their most practical workaday activities are tinged by 
nostalgia, and, do they but combine to defend their 
standard of living, they declare (it is the manifesto of 
ninety years ago) : “Formed into such a society, we 
cease to be strangers and friendless in the land of our 

Dear, happy England seems already like the land of 
shadows, beautiful and beloved, but abandoned for ever.” 
So writes from the outward-bound ship a daughter of the 
vicarage; and then, with her genteel, stout-hearted 
brothers and sisters, struggles to recreate an English 
substance in the wilds of Western Australia. “It is 
indeed a sweet place,” she writes from the new home, 


" Independent Australian Britons” 55 

“and improvements are daily springing up around us. 
The house we now occupy would strike at a distance as 
a comfortable substantial-looking mansion. It is white, 
and the four windows in the upper storey give it a cheerful 
and finished look, which perhaps it does not quite 
deserve. As you approach it the garden, well fenced and 
productive in all English vegetables, would almost make 
you forget that you are in Australia.” That is the aim 
of so many — to forget that they are exiles in Australia, 
to fence from the wilderness a little corner of England. 
‘ ‘ The house was thatched and whitewashed, and English 
was written on it and on every foot of ground around it. 
A furze bush had been planted by the door. Vertical 
oak palings were the fence, with a five-barred gate in the 
middle of them. From the little plantation all the mag- 
nificent trees and shrubs of Australia had been excluded 
with amazing resolution and consistency, and oak and 
ash reigned safe from over-towering rivals.” This is a 
novelist’s picture ; but leE us compare it with a footnote 
to Professor Shann’s Growth of the Australian Economy. 
“He congratulates himself” — he is a little farmer of 
Killyfaddy, near Launceston in Tasmania — “on his 150 
acres of fine meadows, into which he has dibbled roots of 
sweet-scented vernal grass. This he thinks will give the 
hay a scent that will puzzle ‘the natives and cockney 
farmers.’ Apple trees, quinces, peaches, almonds, 
apricots, plums, cherries, gooseberries, raspberries, and 
strawberries are planted in his orchard, and ‘several 
thousand forest trees in the seed-bed and nursery ’ are 
ready. Of 50 acres cleared for cultivation 30 are 
ploughed and part sown. He is preparing to plant sweet- 
briar hedges under the ‘dead fences,’ and has three 
bushels of haws of colonial growth.” Thus “the im- 
proving hand of the European” is laid upon the Bush, 



domesticating its unappreciated wildness, hewing from 
its forests English fields and English meadows, trans- 
forming a wayward, indifferent Nature into the homely 
goddess of the English countryside, gentle, companion- 
able, and kind. 

To the early settlers, the Bush was an unfriendly 
wilderness. It would not accept them as it had accepted 
the aborigine ; they must master it, and mastery — until 
the second half of the nineteenth century, when Australia 
first felt the direct impact of the machine age — came so 
painfully and so slow. They were overjoyed when, push- 
ing beyond the dense mountain forests of the belt of 
heavy rainfall, they found more manageable, more 
familiar country, “like a park and grounds laid out.” 
In the Australian Bush the romanticism of their genera- 
tion became tinged with a melancholy that was in part 
spontaneous, in part a fashionable pose. The settler must 
pretend to shudder “when he crossed unawares in his 
path the naked lord of the forest.” “The Australian 
mountain forests,” wrote Marcus Clarke, “ are funereal, 
secret, stern. Their solitude is desolation. They seem to 
stifle in their black gorges a story of sullen despair. No 
tender sentiment is nourished in their shade. In other 
lands the dying year is mourned, the falling leaves drop 
lightly on his bier. ... In the Australian forests no 
leaves fall. The savage winds shout among the rock- 
clefts. From the melancholy gums strips of white bark 
hang and rustle. The very animal life of these frowning 
hills is either grotesque or ghostly. ...” “Yet,” he 
confesses, “the dweller in the wilderness acknowledges 
the subtle charm of this fantastic land of monstrosities. 
He becomes familiar with the beauty of loneliness. 
Whispered to by the myriad tongues of the wilderness, 
he learns the language of the barren and the uncouth, 

"Independent Australian Britons ” 57 

and can read the hieroglyphics of haggard gum trees, 
blown into odd shapes, distorted with hot winds, or 
cramped with cold nights, when the Southern Cross 
freezes in a cloudless sky of icy blue.” 

It is difficult for the Australian to believe that his 
country did really reveal itself to his fathers as a “fan- 
tastic land of monstrosities ” ; difficult for him to imagine 
that the friendly chuckle of his favourite, the kookaburra, 
ever sounded like ‘ ‘ horrible peals of semi-human 
laughter.” It is impossible for him to see his forests as 
newcomers still see them — 

" A tattered host of eucalypt 
From whose gaunt uniform is made 
A ragged penury of shade.” 

The eye, no less than the mind, is prejudiced against 
the unaccustomed ; and familiarity breeds more often 
tolerance and affection than contempt. An intelligent 
sojourner in New South Wales observed more than ioo 
years ago that to the colonial-born the gum trees seemed 
really beautiful. “ I myself,” he admitted, “so powerful 
is habit, begin to look upon them pleasurably.” Habit, 
interpreted and guided by a native school of painters, 
has taught the modern Australian to see in the gum tree 
“the haggard and exquisite symbol of Australian nation- 
hood.” A characteristic story of Henry Lawson’s 
sketches the mixed crowd of travellers in a New Zealand 
coach, and among them a disgruntled Australian, who 
loudly decries his country : “ Why, it’s only a mongrel 
desert. . . . The worst dried-up, God-forsaken country 
I was ever in. ... I was born there. That’s the main 
thing I’ve got against the darned country. . . Why 
should he go back ? But the road is skirting a plantation 
of gums, and the Australian sniffs — the unforgettable 
tang of gum leaves burning stings his nostrils as the 



coach runs past a tramp crouched over a fire of twigs. 
He turns fiercely upon an Englishman who has mildly 
echoed his denigrations. He is going home. 

There have existed cultures which are inseparable 
from the soil out of which they have sprung, which in 
their poetry and architecture and their adventures of 
thought and action seem but to intensify the rhythm and 
colour of a landscape. Without some sending down of 
roots, no community can live an individual life — there 
cannot, indeed, be a community. The roots sent down 
in Australian soil by the transplanted British have only 
here and there struck deep beneath the surface. The 
great mass of Australian writing is concerned with things 
of the surface, describing in song and short story the 
pouring out of the British over "the wide, brown 
country." Recurrent in Australian poetry is a note of 
renunciation, sometimes regretful, sometimes defiant — 

“ The love that ivy-like around a homeland lingers. 

The soft embrace of breast and green, caressive fingers, 
We are too young to know. . . 

— and a note of expectation, of waiting upon the future 
for an Australia which has not been known to the past — 

"Yet she shall be as we, the Potter, mould, 

Altar or tomb as we aspire, despair, 

What wine we bring shall she, the chalice, hold, 

What word we write shall she, the script, declare. . . .” 

Renunciation of the past ; straining towards the future ; 
restlessness in the present — the last of these themes is 
expressed most frequently in Australian fiction. There 
are, indeed, scarcely a dozen Australian novels which 
are worth preserving, yet of this small number a sur- 
prising proportion is preoccupied with individuals and 
families uprooted from England, and unacclimatised to 

" Independent Australian Britons ” 59 

Australia. Richard Mahoney is a colonial in England and 
a restless, unhappy alien in Australia ; Nicholas Freydon 
(the most attractive and self-revealing of Australianate 
Englishmen) flits uneasily between two hemispheres ; and 
even the solidly established family of the Montforts 
hesitates between the old land and the new. "Austra- 
lians,” one of them declares, "should either go to 
England or forget that they came from there as quickly 
as possible.” 

The dissonances which literature has muffled or har- 
monised have sounded more stridently in politics, for 
politics do not admit the subtlety of semitones, and their 
major discords tend to drown all other sounds. It is 
possible to trace back to a very early period in Australian 
history the conflict between self-assertive native senti- 
ment and a genuine or pretended Englishry. At a time 
when the money of convict Sydney was sadly inferior to 
sterling, a facetious military officer nicknamed the 
colonial-born population Currency ; and although the 
original stigma of this phrase was forgotten, Australians 
have always been quick to recognise or imagine an in- 
flection of patronage in English references to the colonies. 
Characteristic resentment against an unjust implication 
of inferiority may be detected in an ironical protest of the 
colonial-born explorer, Hume, who presumed himself — 
"although an Australian” — capable of undertaking an 
important expedition. It must be remembered that 
throughout three generations the colonial-born popula- 
tion was in a minority ; the potential opposition between 
peoples was therefore transferred to Australian soil and 
interwoven with local conflicts of interest. This may be 
readily seen in an address to the Governor of New South 
•Wales in 1826. His Excellency is reminded that there 
exists in the colony " a race of men, already arrived at 

6 o 


adult state, who, scattered in the distant and silent woods 
of their country, unknown, unfelt, and unheard as a 
political body, are yet destined to be the fathers of the 
succeeding generation.” These men consider the land 
their “own, as it were, by natural inheritance,” and 
resent the lavish bestowal of it upon “strangers.” 
England may not hope to keep their loyalty unless they 
are treated as the equals of English emigrants. 

Australian nationalism took definite form in the class 
struggle between the landless majority and the land- 
monopolising squatters. For the squatters and their 
allies were not, like the great mass of immigrant settlers 
and their children, compelled by circumstances to break 
their connections with England and accept Australia as 
their only home. They went to and fro from one hemi- 
sphere to another ; often they ended their days in 
England, and sometimes they sent their sons to Oxford 
or Cambridge ; behind them stood the powerful financial 
houses, controlled from London and controlling the 
economy of Australia ; they were welcome at Government 
House, and met there officers of His Majesty’s Navy and 
journalist-politicians who argued for Imperial federa- 
tion. What more natural than that the democrat should 
jeer at Government House, pooh-pooh the navy, carica- 
ture Englishmen who said “ Haw 1” and declare himself 
an Australian Nationalist? Even before the gold-rush 
these oppositions had become visible : Wentworth had 
already discovered that he was ' ‘ never a Radical, but 
always a Whig,” and deemed it monstrous that the 
liberties he had vindicated for his "new Britannia in 
another world” should subserve interests other than 
those of the pastoral oligarchy to which he belonged. 
He was ready, when that oligarchy was inconvenienced 
by a shortage of labour, to reintroduce convicts or to 

" Independent Australian Britons ” 6i 

import coolies from Asia ; yet he resented the flooding 
of the colony by free Englishmen looking for gold, and 
‘ ‘ was firm in his conviction that the representation of the 
country should be based on, or proportioned to, not 
the mere population, but the great interests of the 
country. . . . Now, he contended that the pastoral 
interest . . . was incomparably the largest, the most 
important interest in the country, and he hoped it would 
continue so for ages.” And he would have safeguarded 
this interest, not merely by securing its predominance in 
the elective house, but by creating a colonial peerage as 
a safeguard against the tyranny of numbers. 

It would appear that those writers exaggerate who 
paint such attractive pictures of the affection and trust 
subsisting between gentle and simple in the old country ; 
for nothing is more evident than that the vulgar emi- 
grants, having escaped from the gentry of England, 
vehemently resented the attempt of fortunate first-comers 
to establish themselves as a gentry in Australia. And, 
in resisting this attempt, they laid stress upon the differ- 
ence, the uniqueness of Australia ; on their own differ- 
ence, their own uniqueness, as Australians. Australian 
nationalism is the child of Australian democracy, and 
grew to be an untidy, vociferous urchin in that bitter 
period of democratic bluster and bungling over the land 
problem. For, despite Wentworth, ‘ ' mere population ” 
did gain political power, and used that power to snatch 
for itself a foothold in squatterdom. The squatters 
“dummied,” bogus selectors of land blackmailed, 
genuine selectors struggled on their wretched holdings 
against drought and flood, and at last (Henry Lawson 
has told their story) sold out to the squatters and moved 
up and down the country shearing sheep, or drifted to 
the industrial suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, to 

62 Australia 

become in the end converts of protectionism. Whether 
shearers or factory hands, they were devoted trade 
unionists, and enthusiastic members of the Labour party 
which arose in the nineties. Within that party it was 
impossible to disentangle the passions of class and of 
nationalism, so inextricably were they intertwined. 

The truth of these observations might be abundantly 
illustrated from the pamphlets and newspapers of the 
two concluding decades of the nineteenth century. 
“ Five-and-twenty years ago” remarks (in 1878) a 
visiting Englishman, “nine-tenths of the European 
inhabitants of Australia regarded the country as a camp- 
ing-ground for money-making purposes, but now nine- 
tenths of them think of it as their home.” This is natural 
enough, for, by 1881, 63 inhabitants out of every 100 
are Australian born ; the currency lads are no longer a 
touchy minority, but a confident, aggressive majority. 
There is a note of self-assurance in the very titles of 
their pamphlets: “Australian Nationalism: An 
Earnest Appeal to the Sons of Australia in Favour of 
Federation and Independence of the States of our 
Country. By Robert Thomson, a son of the soil, who 
fervently loves Australia, and whose highest ambition 
and aspiration is to be true to her and to serve her 
cause.” Defiantly, this son of the soil accepts 1788 as 
“a date that will be classed in the world’s history with 
the founding of Rome, the landing of the Pilgrim 
Fathers, or the storming of the Bastille. There will be 
but one greater day in our own Australia’s annals, and 
that will be the anniversary of the Declaration of 
Independence.” He would have his countrymen think 
that “all their hopes, desires, and aspirations are bound 
up with the interests of the Australian continent, ’ ' and he 
denounces the attempt to waste these enthusiasms on 

” Independent Australian Britans” 


the illimitable plain of the British Empire. The extra- 
ordinary spectacle of “ the rising tide of self-reliance on 
the broad breast of Young Australia” dazzles his 
patriotic eye. His fervour exactly illustrates the argu- 
ment already advanced, that Australian nationalism was 
a product of the struggle of numbers against economic 
power allied with English connections, for his democracy 
and his patriotism are inseparably interwoven, and his 
quarrel with the wealthy is that they are, at least in 
spirit, absentees. Australia for the Australians’ 
means that' Australia should be devoted solely to 
those who are devoted to her.’’ For these authentic 
Australians he designs a national flag and composes a 
national song — “which may be sung to the tune of 
' Believe me, if all those endearing young charms.’ ” 

It would, nevertheless, be erroneous to dismiss 
Australian nationalism as nothing more than an aspect 
of Australian democracy. Many streams helped to swell 
the flood, and though its colour and its vehemence derive 
directly from the source which we have examined, its 
essential origins do not lie within the limits of any 
separate class. It is possible to imagine a nationalism 
gradually developing from the old colonial society, un- 
interrupted by the upheaval of the gold-rush, proceeding 
by a gradual separation of English and colonial interests 
and affections, and directed (as happened in America) 
by substantial landowners and merchants. And, indeed, 
the conservative classes of Australia did in the main come 
into line, on the national issue, with the ardent radicals. 
They, too, were sending down roots in Australian soil, 
and were quick to resent the suggestion of patronage in 
the word colonial. To some extent they unconsciously 
took tone and colour from their political adversaries, 
unwittingly adopting their very phrases. Their children, 

64 Australia 

when first they visited England, were shocked at the 
poverty of London and the callousness of the rich 
towards the poor; and when they vaunted Australia’s 
equality of opportunity and fair and reasonable condi- 
tions of living they were unconscious that their fathers 
had once distrusted these fine phrases as masking a sub- 
versive democracy. In Australia all but a few irrecon- 
cilables had ceased to think of democracy as subversive. 
As for nationalism, must the discussion of it be left 
entirely to ‘ ‘ disreputable ’ ’ papers like the Sydney 
Bulletin? Perfectly respectable organs such as the 
Melbourne Review opened their columns, not only to 
the arguments with which Sir Henry Parkes supported 
federation, but to the rejoinders of opponents who de- 
clared that it was ‘ * no use to hold up the similacrum of 
an Australian nation,” and that the reality was to be 
achieved only by a complete severance from the British 

Such bold pronouncements of independence did not 
ring quite true even in the eighties, when the Bulletin 
and the Australian Natives’ Association were revelling 
in their strenuous youth. In the nineties, when the 
Commonwealth ceased to be a shadowy, exciting aspira- 
tion and began to take shape as a practical design, they 
almost died away. This, no doubt, was due in part to the 
sobering influence of conservative support on the 
ardours of Australian nationalism ; but the explanation 
must go beyond personalities. The Australian colonies, 
after all, were self-determining communities so far as 
their economic and social affairs were concerned, and to 
all save the most bigoted it became apparent that 
England had no direct concern in their class conflicts. 
These must be fought out on Australian soil. And what 
sense was there in pretending to threaten and bully 

" Independent Australian Britons 65 

for the sake of something that could be taken without 
fuss? As early as 1847 Earl Grey had suggested a 
scheme of federation, which the reluctant particularist 
colonies had hardly thought worth discussing. ‘ 1 1 some- 
times think,” Lord Rosebery told a Sydney audience in 
1883, “that when she (Great Britain) has launched her 
colonies on the ocean of constitutional government, she 
enters into the position of the hen we all know of that 
has hatched a brood of ducklings, much to her surprise, 
and having conducted them to a harmless pool, sees 
them swim away without being able to follow them.” 
Since the Mother-Country was so placid and so impo- 
tent, what occasion was there for that mutinous defiance 
proper to adolescent, independent daughters ? The 
posture of rebellion would be ridiculous. Since England 
applauded while Australia federated, Australia was con- 
tent, while accepting the privileges of nationhood, to 
deny herself some heroics . . . and some responsi- 

Moreover, incredible as it might appear to strangers, 
this community of transplanted Britons had already 
developed its own aggressive imperialism. “ It is neces- 
sary to have been in Oceania,” remarks Andr£ Seigfried, 
‘ ‘ to realise to what an extent neighbours seven to nine 
hundred miles away can be thought annoying.” Dr. Lang 
resented the presence of the French in Tahiti as an impu- 
dent interference with Australia’s mission of civilisation 
in the Pacific Ocean. Alfred Deakin warned England 
that the Australians had made the question of the New 
Hebrides their own, that a surrender to France on this 
issue would greatly weaken their confidence in the 
Empire, and that from this time forward Colonial 
policy must be considered Imperial policy. 'Sir Thomas 
Mcllwraith, Premier of Queensland, idolised by the pas- 




toralists as the one strong, sane politician among a crowd 
of shifty demagogic Socialists, claimed New Guinea (a 
country many times the size of England) as Australia’s 
Isle of Wight, and was bitterly affronted when England’s 
procrastination permitted Germany to disturb his dream 
of “ a united Australia ruling the south seas.” Despite 
their democratic idealism, the Australians were not 
pacifist ; they dreamed of power. ‘ 1 An united Australia 
of such colossal proportions,” declared Sir Henry 
Parkes, “would be a power from the day of its birth.” 
Mr. Thomson, that son of the soil who watched the 
rising tide of self-reliance mount on the broad breast of 
Young Australia, proudly hoped that his country would 
one day be “the seat of a mighty empire under the 
banner of the Anglo-Saxon race.” 

Among the Australians pride of race counted for more 
than love of country. They exulted in the “process of 
consanguineous peopling of the land,” in the crimson 
thread of kinship which ran through them all ; and de- 
clared that the unity of Australia meant nothing if it did 
not imply a united race. Defining themselves as “inde- 
pendent Australian Britons” they believed each word 
essential and exact, but laid most stress upon the last. 
The Bulletin, which for nearly fifty years has been the 
most popular and influential mouthpiece of Australia’s 
literary, economic, and political nationalism, has con- 
stantly boasted that the British race is better represented 
in Australia than in ‘ ‘ cosmopolitan and nigger-infested 
England.” It frequently occurs that those who are most 
intensely British have a special dislike for the English ; 
they will not, for example, extend the same tolerance 
to an English "accent” as to a Scottish “dialect.” 
Nevertheless, it is quite possible to be pro-British with- 
out being anti-English, and even the more radical 

" Independent Australian Britons ” 67 

Australian Nationalists drifted towards this desirable 
anchorage. For England, even the England with a 
governing-class accent, was necessary to them. During 
the eighties they had protested that they would have 
no part nor lot in England’s business in the East — “We 
ask for peace — peace, we shall hope, with honour, but 
peace on our own responsibility, not war on the responsi- 
bility of those who must be guided by very different 
considerations from those which ought to affect us.” 
But was Australia utterly removed from England’s busi- 
ness in the East ? Facing her northern doors were vast 
reservoirs of yellow humanity, whose outpourings, if 
unchecked, would ruin what she held most precious — the 
economic and racial foundations of her homogeneous 
egalitarian society. The hotheads might boast that they 
would welcome a war with China — “ So far from think- 
ing a Chinese war would be a calamity to Australia, I 
fervently believe it would be the greatest blessing . . . 
there would be such an uprising of patriotism in Australia 
as has seldom been seen in Anglo-Saxon annals ’ ’ — but 
would the hottest patriotism of the noblest Anglo-Saxon 
brew be sufficient for Australia’s security? Some few 
Australians dreamed of a time when the English-speak- 
ing peoples throughout the world would be united in 
“ one supreme confederacy ” ; but present needs called 
for something more substantial. Racialism was not 
enough. Australia was not protected by a long, open 
frontier and the Monroe Doctrine. Depending on the 
British Navy (and the British money market) she could 
not but throw in her lot unreservedly with the British 
Empire, of which, after all, England was the head and 

Australians tried to ignore the non-British elements 
of that curious discrete community of communities to 



which they belonged : they (so their leaders told them) 
were citizen subjects of the Empire ; whereas the Indians 
were only subject citizens. “The Empire,” protested 
Deakin, “is great because it is British.” To such an 
Empire, refashioned in the image of Australia, how easy 
it was to be loyal. Imperial patriotism became an exten- 
sion of Australian nationalism; and if, as Mr. W. M. 
Hughes declared in 1921, “We are a nation by the 
grace of God and the British Empire,” there was yet 
an implied converse obvious to all Australians and satis- 
factory to their pride : ‘ ‘ The British Empire exists by 
the grace of God and the British Dominions, of which 
we are not least.” 


The argument of the preceding paragraphs seems 
clear, but it does not satisfy me. Politics and history 
deal with men in the mass, and achieve simplicity by 
discovering the least common multiple of a vast sum of 
intractable particulars. But men exist out of the mass 
as well as within it ; and sometimes obstinate particulars 
resent our formulae and wreck them. Many of my fellow- 
countrymen will feel that there is no place in my arid 
generalisations for what they value most. Our fathers 
were homesick Englishmen, or Irishmen, or Scots ; and 
their sons, who have made themselves at home in a 
continent, have not yet forgotten those tiny islands in 
the North Sea. A country is a jealous mistress and 
patriotism is commonly an exclusive passion ; but it is 
not impossible for Australians, nourished by a glorious 
literature and haunted by old memories, to be in love 
with two soils. 



The Australian soldier has frequently been admired for 
his personal independence and individual initiative. The 
Australian voter has been continually blamed for his lack 
of initiative and for his excessive dependence upon the. 
State. Unless we are to assume that the fighters have 
not voted and the voters have not fought, we must seek 
some explanation of these contradictory reputations. 

tWe shall exaggerate the importance of the inquiry if 
we imagine that the Australians have made very original 
discoveries in the science and art of government. The 
last few generations have witnessed in many countries 
noteworthy extensions of the functions of the State ; and 
the differences in Australian practice are differences, not 
of principle, but of degree. They are the product, not of 
theory, but of circumstances. New countries, observed 
Wakefield, demand “ample government.” Consider 
the predicament of the pioneers : they are separated 
from each other by unheard-of distances which, some- 
how or other, must be bridged ; they are strangers to 
each other, and have broken every familiar association 
by their voyage across the sea ; no one of them is suffi- 
cient to himself, yet each is so isolated from his fellows 
and so engrossed in his struggles that effective local 
co-operation is impossible ; or, if co-operation is achieved 
in some favoured locality, there still remain the great 
gaps which separate this happy community from its 
neighbours. Collective action is indispensable if an 


70 Australia 

obstinate environment is to be mastered. But how can 
this scattered and shifting aggregate of uprooted units 
act collectively except through the State? They look 
to the Government to help them because they have 
nowhere else to look. 

It may be objected that these general arguments are 
refuted by the experience of the United States of 
America ; but the geographical conditions of the two 
countries are so different that any comparisons between 
them must be misleading. “ Uncle Sam is rich enough 
to give us all a farm,” sang the Americans, and their 
song calls up a picture of family holdings and the com- 
fort of neighbourliness. From the time when the sub- 
sistence farmers of New England established themselves 
around their townships and worked so steadily outwards 
that the spreading fields of one community were checked 
by the spreading fields of another, until the time when 
trans- continental railways opened western lands to the 
small homesteader, America (although it may seem 
absurd to say so) has not been seriously troubled by the 
problem of distance. At least, not as Australians under- 
stand that problem. At the present time there is no 
docfor between Hawker and Port Darwin, a distance of 
1,300 miles, and until the aeroplane came it might have 
taken an injured man a month of agonised travelling to 
reach an operating theatre. The greater part of Aus- 
tralia can only be opened for settlement (which, accord- 
ing to European standards, must be sparse settlement) 
by heavy initial expenditure. Who is to undertake it? 
About the middle of the nineteenth century there were 
some experiments in railway construction by private com- 
panies, but 'the conditions of Australia’s economic 
geography made the land-grant railway, save in excep- 
tional cases, an impossibility. English investors them- 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 71 

selves insisted upon having the guarantee of the State. 
So Government remains responsible for communications. 
But, in Australia, drought is an enemy no less formid- 
able than distance. Government interests itself in the 
storage and circulation of water. Perhaps it should have 
been content with this. But growing bureaucracies do 
not readily submit themselves to self-denying ordinances, 
and debtors, in their anxiety to push the income from 
their assets up to the level of the interest on their 
liabilities, sometimes incur new debts. Government, 
therefore, begins to place settlers on the lands whiefe-it- 
has “developed.” And the settlers, remembering that 
the Government has put them there, not infrequently 
imagine that it has in some way or other accepted an 
obligation to keep them there. 

This sketch ignores or confuses the differences between 
pastoral and agricultural occupation of the land, and 
does no more than suggest the circumstances and the 
spirit of Government activity in pioneering. .What of 
that majority of Australians who are not pioneers, who 
have tried and failed, or who have never tried ? The 
dominant theme in Australian political history is the 
lament of an unsatisfied land-hunger. This theme swells 
angrily in the decades which follow the gold-rushes, 
when men who have been their own masters on the 
diggings fight for a farmer’s independence and are 
driven back — partly by vested interests and bad laws, 
chiefly by forces of economics and geography, which 
have created the interests and which cannot be altered 
by the laws. Yet the defeated landless ones are not 
altogether inconsolable. They have, at any rate, pos- 
sessed themselves of the State. Within ten years of the 
discovery of gold, practically the whole political pro- 
gramme of the Chartists is realised in the Australian 

7 2 Australia 

colonies. What class, what tradition is there in Australia 
which can hold the State against the assault of numbers ? 
Numbers are the State, and thankfully accept those 
traditions of its omni-competence which were built up 
by the military autocrats of early days. Circumstances 
would not in any case permit a complete break with 
these traditions ; to attempt such a break is the last 
thing which the landless majority desires. For if, as a 
judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court once sug- 
gested, the machinery of the State exists for the sake 
of the " divine average,” then the majority, controlling 
this machinery, becomes, after all, a master class. 

Thus Australian democracy has come to look upon 
the State as a vast public utility, whose duty it is to 
provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number. 
The results of this attitude have been defined as le 
socialisms sans doctrines. Its origins, however, are 
individualistic, deriving from the levelling tendency of 
migrations which have destroyed old ranks and relation- 
ships and scattered over wide lands a confused aggregate 
of individuals bound together by nothing save their 
powerful collectivity. Each of these individuals is a 
citizen, a fragment of the sovereign people ; each of them 
is a subject who claims his rights — the right to work, 
the right to fair and reasonable conditions of living, the 
right to be happy— from the State and through the 
State. Some day, when Australian universities have 
assembled the dismal paraphernalia of sociological re- 
search, an energetic young graduate will produce a 
learned thesis in three volumes (with appendices) tracing 
the theory of rights from the first settlers, whose ‘ ‘ demo- 
cratical tendencies” were so obnoxious to autocratic 
Governors, through England’s emigrant Chartists and 
Ireland’s emigrant Liberators, to the fathers of the Aus- 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 73 

tralian Labour movement, who showed how the right of 
association might be used to capture the State and trans- 
form all rights into powers. This will be one of those 
interesting yet irritating inquiries to which the answer 
is already known before the search for it has begun. 
The whole of Australian history lies within the period 
which succeeded the French Revolution and the Indus- 
trial Revolution, a period filled with a deafening clamour 
for rights and a few shrill protests about duties. In 
Australia the assertion of rights has been less a matter 
of theory than of instinct ; nor has this instinct been 
peculiar to any one class. 

To the Australian, the State means collective power 
at the service of individualistic “rights.” Therefore he 
sees no opposition between his individualism and his 
reliance upon Government. Whether or not the two 
tendencies will exist together so comfortably when the 
frontiers are finally drawn, when occupation has slackened 
into settlement and the Australian begins to feel himself 
cramped for elbow-room, is another question. At the 
time when Australian democracy was elaborating its 
characteristic social policies, Australians still thought of 
their country as “an unlimited out-of-doors,” as “the 
land of lots o’ time.” They wished to justify their 
peculiar freedom by demonstrating to the world that 
individual wretchedness was not a necessary feature of 
human society, that justice, which they understood as 
the recognition and satisfaction of the rightful claims of 
every individual, might be made the corner-stone of the 
State. Men more easily take in vain the name of justice 
than the name of God ; yet the Australians who a genera- 
tion ago appealed so frequently to justice did so in all 
sincerity. Interwoven with the egotistical assertion of 
rights was a disinterested .enthusiasm, the aspiration of 


1 4 

young men and poets who preached as “The Golden 
Rule of Young Democracy” — 

“That culture, joy, and goodliness 
Be th’ equal right of all; 

That Greed no more shall those oppress 
Who by the wayside fall.” 

Thus the angers of class struggle were softened by the 
mediation of those ‘ 1 tolerants ’ ’ and enthusiasts of the 
middle classes who voted for Labour or the Deakin 
Liberals, and applauded when the State intervened to 
protect the weak, to annex industry as “ a new province 
for law and order,” to recognise rights. Intolerance of 
oppression and sympathy with the under-dog are among 
the most attractive features of the Australian character. 
And yet, is it not possible to exaggerate even these 
virtues? A dull fellow cannot really assert a right to 
culture ; nor can the State satisfy a grumpy fellow’s 
claim to joy. The passion for equal justice can so easily 
sour into a grudge against those who enjoy extraordinary 
gifts, and the aspiration for fraternity can so easily 
express itself by pulling down those lonely persons who 
are unable to fraternise with the crowd. The ideal of 
“ mateship,” which appeals very strongly to the ordinary 
good-hearted Australian, springs, not only from his 
eagerness to exalt the humble and meek, but also from 
his zeal to put down the mighty from their seat. If ever 
the ship of Australian democracy enters the calm waters 
of its millennium it will carry a fraternal but rather drab 
company of one-class passengers — 

“ But the curse of class distinctions from our shoulders shall 
be hurled 

An’ the sense of Human Kinship revolutionise the world; 

There’ll be higher education for the toilin’, starvin’ clown, 

An’ the rich an’ educated shall be educated down; 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 75 

Then we all will meet amidships on this stout old earthly 

We’ll be brothers, fore-’n’-aft ! 

Yes, an’ sisters, fore-’n’-aft! 

When the people work together, and there ain’t no fore- 

This, then, is the prevailing ideology of Australian 
democracy — the sentiment of justice, the claim of right, 
the conception of equality, and the appeal to Govern- 
ment as the instrument of self-realisation. The ideology 
is simple ; but the instrument is not. The fact that the 
Australians live in a federation complicates their politics, 
which in idea are extremely straightforward and un- 
sophisticated. Australia frequently impresses the outside 
observer as being the most uniformly monotonous of con- 
tinents, and the Australians impress him as being the 
most monotonously uniform of peoples. There may be 
no alligators in the Derwent and no platypuses in the 
Roper, no pineapples on the Tasmanian plateaux and no 
deciduous beeches on the plains of Queensland, yet 
everywhere the visiting geographer remarks a relative 
uniformity in “topography, climate, vegetation, animals, 
and people.’’ He is astonished at a racial homogeneity 
unparalleled in the New World, and impressed by a con- 
tinent-wide sameness of the social structure. The price- 
index numbers of total household expenditure show no 
provincial variation greater than 5 per cent, from the 
Commonwealth average, and this striking standardisa- 
tion of material circumstances is emphasised by an 
equally striking standardisation of habits. The house- 
wife, whether her iron-roofed kitchen is situated on the 
“polar front ” of Southern Victoria or in the steaming 
coastal plains of Queensland, observes the same hours 
of labour, cooks the same stews and puddings, and goes 
shopping in the same fashion of hat. Despite all this, 

>]6 Australia 

provincial sentiment is still strong in Australia. The 
colonies whose pre-federation rivalries scattered Customs 
houses along their land frontiers and broke the unity of 
Australia’s one great river-system by competitive rail- 
way building, still hold obstinately to the “ sovereignty ” 
proper to them as States. Western Australia is the only 
State which might without serious danger withdraw from 
the national economic system, but majorities in all the 
States are keenly conscious of their economic difficulties 
and sensitive to their economic grievances. The con- 
servative classes, whose tactics are to divide and defend, 
cling to the States (the majority of which still retain 
bi-cameral Legislatures) as bulwarks of the producer’s 
interest. The average citizen looks more frequently to the 
Government which sits in Melbourne or Adelaide than 
to the Government which sits in Canberra. It is this closer, 
more intimate Government which protects him from the 
wicked, educates him, watches over his health, develops 
roads and railways, and water supplies so that he may 
find permanent employment as a farmer or temporary 
employment as a navvy, regulates his local trade con- 
ditions, inspects his factory — performs, in short, all 
those functions which seem to affect most nearly his 
economic and social well-being. Canberra itself is less a 
national capital than the monument of a compromise 
between jealous provincialisms. Even the radicals must 
accept and turn to the best advantage these facts which 
give meaning to Australian federalism. They hope, it is 
true, that federal sentiment is but a temporary stage in 
national growth. They preach unification. They would, 
if they could, stake everything on the issue of one 
struggle for the control of one Government. But, in the 
meantime, they exploit to the full the resources of six 
provincial Governments. Within the States (as will 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 77 

appear in a later chapter) is to be found one very im- 
portant expression of the Australian ideology. State 
Government is the instrument with which Australian 
democracy has fashioned its experimental socialism. 

Control of the Federal Government is, nevertheless, 
the great prize of political struggle. Even in the first 
decade of the present century, when unification seemed 
utterly remote from practical possibilities, the radical 
forces of Australian democracy instinctively understood 
that the newly formed Federal Parliament must occupy 
the dominant position in Australian politics. It alone 
could guarantee the isolation necessary for those experi- 
ments which were to demonstrate to the world the possi- 
bility of social justice. It could restrict the entry of 
aliens ; it could tax the entry of goods. Some day, 
perhaps, it might make itself the chief experimenter. In 
the meantime, every experiment which the Australians 
had initiated and every experiment which they hoped 
to begin depended upon something which only the 
Commonwealth could supply — a cordon sanitaire. Aus- 
tralian democracy already knew that it could survive only 
behind a ring-fence of immigration restriction. Gradually 
it came to believe that it needed a second ring-fence of 
fiscal protection. 

# # # # # 

The policy of White Australia is the indispensable 
condition of every other Australian policy. Embodied in 
the Immigration Restriction Act, 1901-25, its inten- 
tion and significance are exceedingly easy to under- 
stand once they have been freed from the rhetoric and 
special pleading in which they have been enveloped. 
During the debates of 1901, the rhetoricians declared 
that it would be unfair for “a nation of yesterday 

78 Australia 

(China) to interfere with the destiny of the ‘ ‘ noblest race 
upon this sphere ’ ’ (the Australians) . They even doubted 
whether some European nations, such as the Italians, 
were “ civilised in the ordinary Australian sense.” How- 
ever, their immediate concern was with black men and 
yellow men — “the servile nations of the world.” In 
legislating against the entry of such people, they knew 
themselves obedient to the will of God, who had set aside 
Australia “exclusively for a Southern empire — for a 
Southern nation.” They knew also that they had the 
approval of science, whose laws, no less immutable than 
those of God, warned the races of this world that they 
might intermix only at their own dire peril. So convinced 
were these good legislators that the Most High spoke 
through them, that they would have engraved His laws 
— their laws — on tables of stone. Chamberlain had re- 
quested, at the Colonial Conference of 1897, that the 
colonies should clothe their legislation in “a form of 
words which will avoid hurting the feelings of any of Her 
Majesty’s subjects.” He had commended to them the 
method adopted by Natal, which had dissimulated a reso- 
lution to discriminate against Asiatics on the ground of 
race, by pretending to test their educational attainments. 
The rhetoricians denounced such diplomacy as “ a hypo- 
critical measure,” “a backdoor method,” “a crooked 
and dishonest evasion.” 

Fortunately, the majority of Australians were not 
rhetoricians, but practical people. The miners who had 
assailed Chinese fossickers on the diggings in the late 
fifties and early sixties of the nineteenth century had not 
pondered deeply over the teachings of God and science. 
And the responsible leaders of the Parliament of 1901 
understood that, in this imperfect world, it is necessary 
to make concessions to expediency and common sense. 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 79 

By insisting upon the expedient of the dictation test they 
read their people a lesson in international good manners, 
and achieved Australia’s purpose without recklessly 
wounding the self-respect of other nations. Moreover, 
they had sufficient honesty and courage to understand 
and to confess that their legislation was founded, not on 
the special nobility of the Australian people, but on the 
obvious fact of its individuality, which was compounded 
not only of good qualities, but of bad. “I contend,” 
declared Deakin, ‘‘that the Japanese need to be ex- 
cluded because of their high abilities . ’ ’ Their very virtues 
would make them dangerous competitors. This is one 
aspect of the economic argument. But Deakin took his 
stand on higher ground : ‘ ‘ The unity of Australia means 
nothing if it does not imply a united race. A united race 
means not only that its members can intermarry and 
associate without degradation on either side, but implies 
. . . a people possessing the same general cast of 
character, tone of thought, the same constitutional train- 
ing and traditions.” 

Every honest exposition of the White Australia policy 
must start from this double argument of economic and 
racial necessity. Every justification of it is hypocrisy 
and cant if it does not admit that its basis is salus populi 
suprema lex . An influx of the labouring classes of Asia 
would inevitably disorganise Australia’s economic and 
political life. The experience of Natal, of North America, 
of the Australian colonies themselves in pre-federation 
days, proves that labourers of different colours are seldom 
sufficiently meek to live side by side in human brother- 
hood. Always there is danger of a threefold de- 
moralisation ; demoralisation of the coolie over-driven 
by white capital, demoralisation of the poor white 
overwhelmed by coolie competition, demoralisation of 

80 Australia 

the half-breed children of coolie and poor white who 
can find no firm place in either of the competing 
civilisations. Reasonable Australians are determined 
that their country shall not know these evils. It 
is not a matter of pride, for they remember Australia’s 
aborigines, and confess that they cannot trust themselves 
to be merciful and just in their dealings with a weaker 
people on their own soil. It is not merely a question of 
primitive fear, for they understand that racial war within 
a State is none the less hateful if one race does all the 
lynching. What they fear is not physical conquest by 
another race, but rather the internal decomposition and 
degradation of their own civilisation. They have gloried 
in their inheritance of free institutions, in their right to 
govern themselves and freely make their own destiny. 
'But self-government, they know, becomes impossible 
when the inhabitants of a country do not agree upon 
essentials. No community can without great danger give 
a share of political power to aliens unable or unwilling to 
accept and defend what most it values. Every State 
must maintain its own ethos, and Australians understand 
that even a successful tyranny over Orientals would 
destroy the character of their own democracy. 

It is unreasonable for Australians to pretend that their 
policy is grounded upon loftier motives than these. The 
best that can be hoped from communities in issues 
which touch them most nearly is that their self-interest 
will be reasonably enlightened. Nations do not habitually 
sell all that they have and give to the poor, and White 
Australia is not (as the rhetoricians seem sometimes to 
suggest) a self-denial offering made to Asiatic and 
African brothers and to a world hungry for beef and 
mutton. Australians feel so intensely about this matter 
that they would willingly inflict grievous harm on other 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 81 

peoples in their effort to protect themselves. But, in 
fact, one is genuinely puzzled to discover any material 
harm which their action had inflicted on any community 
outside Australia. Polynesians in their wild state never 
clamoured for admission to the Queensland sugar-fields ; 
they were pursued and rounded up and shipped to 
Australia by enterprising gentlemen called blackbirders. 
The great Eastern nations have never shown any inflex- 
ible determination to export coolies ; they seem generally 
to have been more interested in protecting their emigrant 
labourers from the oppressions of white capital. The 
Government of India has fought a strenuous battle within 
the Empire to win justice, not for subjects excluded from 
Australia, but for subjects attracted to Natal. It would 
indeed be folly to imagine that Australia’s comparative 
immunity from external pressure must be eternal ; the 
contrast between her empty north and the crowded 
Orient which faces it is too striking to be ignored. It 
is, nevertheless, certain that the policy of White 
Australia (which, after all, has depended for its practical 
validity upon the guarantee of the British Empire) has 
been more readily reconcilable than any other alternative 
policy which it is possible to imagine, with goodwill 
among the members of the Empire, and friendly rela- 
tions between the Empire and foreign Powers. 

* # # * # 

The Australians have always asserted that immigra- 
tion restriction is but the negative condition of a positive 
policy ; that White Australia — to use Deakin’s phrase — 
means an Australia peopled by white citizens, and not 
white “merely because of the blank, unoccupied spaces 
on the map.”- These blank, unoccupied spaces on the 
map seem both to accuse the policy of exclusion and to 




endanger it. In their eagerness to stake their claim to 
a continent the Australians have made strenuous and 
sometimes very crude efforts to increase the quantity of 
their population. But, it must be confessed, they are 
more concerned with its quality. They would rather have 
a small and prosperous community than one which would 
be “a prey to all the abuses of industry.” Outside 
observers have sometimes noted this preference and 
criticised it as an expression of “the parochial spirit 
extended to a continent.” Yet it has its roots, not merely 
in self-interest, but in idealism. It is the natural fruit 
of Australia’s mid-nineteenth century radicalism. Pro- 
testing Chartism became on Australian soil a protesting 
nationalism, fired with the passion to fashion a new com- 
munity free from the hereditary oppressions of the Old 

“ Last sea-thing dredged by sailor Time from Space 
Are you a drift Sargasso, where the West 
In halcyon calm rebuilds her fatal nest?” 

Australian democracy pictured itself as a vine brought 
out of Europe and dreamed of a time when its boughs 
would be like the goodly cedar tree. But the vine was 
still young and tender and must be encompassed with a 
hedge, lest the wild boar out of the woods (the capital- 
istic boar of Europe’s industrial woods) should root it up. 

The present chapter is concerned, not with the 
economics of Australian protectionism, but with its 
emotional and ideological flavour. When the Australian 
colonies federated in 1900, Victoria had for several 
decades been Protectionist, while New South Wales re- 
mained obstinately loyal to Free Trade. The partisans of 
Protection and of Free Trade pointed warning fingers 
at one or other of the rival colonies as exemplifying the 
horrible results of one or other of the rival policies. But 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 83 

economic disputation did not decide Australian policy. 
Protection triumphed in Australia because it appealed 
irresistibly to the most ardent sentiments of Australian 
democracy and to the interests which lurked behind the 
sentiments. The history of Labour’s conversion illus- 
trates this. In the early days of the Commonwealth, the 
Labour party, playing the profitable game of 1 ' support 
in return for concessions,” held the balance between the 
two older parties and refused to make up its mind upon the 
fiscal issue which divided them. But gradually it drifted 
towards the Protectionist side. Free Trade Labour 
men must have become uneasy during the debates on the 
Immigration Restriction Bill, which focussed their eyes 
upon the competitive strength of frugal Orientals. An 
outcry against trusts and dumping made them look for 
danger in another quarter. Finally, Deakin’s invention 
of a device which seemed to give direct protection to 
wages, turned them from hesitating converts into ardent 
testifiers and missionaries. “The ‘old’ Protection,” 
explained Deakin, ‘‘contented itself with making good 
wages possible. The ‘ new ’ Protection seeks to make 
them actual. . . . Having put the manufacturer into a 
position to pay good wages, it goes on to assure the 
public that he does pay them.” In this way the 
economic doctrine of Protection adapted itself to the 
favourite ideas of Australian democracy. It offered a 
weapon of defence against that dangerous outside world 
which struggled for profit and cared nothing for 
Australia’s adventurous quest of justice. 

Deakin’s New-Protectionist legislation asserted the 
principle that protection was due to those employers 
only who offered wages and conditions of labour which 
agreed with a standard of “fair and reasonable.” The 
phrase has become the popular refrain of Australian 



democracy, repeated incessantly in pleas and judicial 
decisions, in statutes, Parliamentary debates, trade 
union conferences, and platform orations. But how is it 
to be defined ? What is fair for Hottentots may not be 
fair for Australians, and what is reasonable in 1907 may 
not be reasonable in 1927. The deduction of practical 
rules from so relative a principle must obviously depend 
upon special conditions of time and place. It is against 
the peculiar background of Australia’s emptiness and 
isolation — emphasised by immigration restriction and a 
protective tariff — that the Australian experiment must 
be viewed. In addition, there are the peculiar complica- 
tions resulting from Australian federalism. At the very 
beginning the neat fiscal devices designed by Deakin 
for the enforcing of New-Protection proved to be uncon- 
stitutional. Since then the Commonwealth Court of Con- 
ciliation and Arbitration, which has been entrusted with 
the task of defining “ fair and reasonable,” has pursued 
its arduous labours amidst the never-ending din of legal 
and political argument. All this makes it harder for 
politicians and lawyers to achieve results, and for his- 
torians to judge them. It does not, however, make it 
harder to perceive purposes. Amidst all the complica- 
tions of Australian machinery, the guiding Australian 
ideas remain simple and clear. The Commonwealth 
Court of Conciliation and Arbitration wasted no time in 
giving a practical meaning to Deakin’ s “ fair and reason- 
able.” Mr. Justice Higgins, a man of outstanding 
character, whose work as President of the Court counts 
for a good deal in Australian history, interpreted ‘‘fair 
and reasonable” as ‘‘the normal needs of an average 
employe regarded as a human being in a civilised 
country.” In a series of judgments he catalogued those 
needs. They included food, shelter, clothing, ‘‘frugal 

Political Ideas and some Basic Policies 85 

comfort,” "provision for evil days,” a reasonable 
amount of leisure, security to marry and to rear a family 
of about three children — altogether a by no means nig- 
gardly extension of the rights of man. With the aid 
of figures, which roughly indicate the cost of living, 
the Court declared a wage adequate to satisfy these 
needs. Thus was created the Australian standard of 
a living wage, or basic wage, which is ‘‘the bedrock 
below which the Court cannot go,” and serves as the 
basis from which are determined the economic varia- 
tions of wages, such as the minimum wage in a particular 
industry or the margins allotted to skilled labour. The 
criterion of needs has been adopted throughout the whole 
continent. In South Australia, for example, the State 
Industrial Court is forbidden by statute to award less than 
a living wage, ” whatever the consequences may be.” 
Obviously, ethics have once again got entangled with 
economics. The Australian conception of "fair and 
reasonable ” is ethical, like the mediaeval idea of the just 
price. To those who object that such a standard may 
conflict with economic possibilities, the courts reply that 
Australia is "not quite so bankrupt in resources of 
material or of mind or of will ” as to be unable to provide 
for workers ‘ ‘ the bare necessaries of life in a supposedly 
civilised community.” The mediaeval idea of concrete 
externalised justice here joins hands with modern 
optimism, which insists that man is in control of nature, 
and that he can make his life tolerable if he chooses to 
do so. Manufacturers must learn to seek economy 
through efficiency, rather than efficiency through 
parsimony ; they must make economic facts conform to 
the idea of justice. If an industry is unable to achieve 
this, it must die — unless the State chooses to intervene 
in order to prolong its existence. With this saving clause 



the argument completes its circle ; it has led back to 
Protection. Does this mean that the distinctive ethics 
of Australian democracy are dependent, after all, upon 
its distinctive economics ? 

The Australians have always disliked scientific 
economics and (still more) scientific economists. They 
are fond of ideals and impatient of technique. Their 
sentiments quickly find phrases, and their phrases find 
prompt expression in policies. What the economists call 
‘‘law”- they call anarchy. The law which they under- 
stand is the positive law of the State — the democratic 
State which seeks social justice by the path of indi- 
vidual rights. The mechanism of international prices, 
which signals the world’s need from one country to 
another and invites the nations to produce more of this 
commodity and less of that, belongs to an entirely 
different order. It knows no rights, but only necessities. 
The Australians have never felt disposed to submit to 
these necessities. They have insisted that their Govern- 
ments must struggle to soften them or elude them or 
master them. In this way they have created an interest- 
ing system of political economy. It will be necessary 
to examine the chief features of this system, which 
embodies the dominating ideas and purposes of the 
Australian people. 




Protection in Australia has been more than a policy : 
it has been a faith and dogma. Its critics, during the 
second decade of the twentieth century, dwindled into 
a despised and detested sect suspected of nursing an 
anti-national heresy. For Protection is interwoven with 
almost every strand of Australia’s democratic nation- 
alism. It is a policy of power ; it professes to be a policy 
of plenty. It promises to the Australians, not only the 
industries which are necessary in time of war, but also 
the enjoyments which are desirable in time of peace. 
The very word appeals to them, because they believe 
in their hearts that both their enjoyments and their exist- 
ence need to be protected against extraordinary dangers. 
Like the Englishmen of early Tudor days, they imagine 
that the poverty of their neighbours is a menace to them- 
selves, and need but little persuasion to “cherish and 
defend themselves and hurt and grieve aliens for the 
commonweal.’’ They believe that a high average 
standard of living for individuals must be the first aim 
and achievement of national energy, and are resolved 
to defend their sovereign purpose against the onslaughts 
of frugal and unscrupulous foreigners. There are 
economic onslaughts and there may be military on- 
slaughts. Protection, they are convinced, is a bulwark 
against both. 

Behind this national fervour there is the pressure of 
particular interests. These interests have to some extent 
created the fervour and to some extent exploited it. 
Among them must be reckoned the interest of the 




Commonwealth Treasury. Despite the rapid growth of 
direct taxation during the war, half of the revenue from 
taxation which Australian Governments collect to-day 
comes from the Customs and Excise tariff of the 
Commonwealth. It is true that a considerable number 
of Customs duties aim openly and honestly at revenue, 
but there is also an unmeasured and very large return 
to the Treasury from duties which are intentionally, 
though clumsily, Protectionist. Thus the interest of the 
central Government has been in superficial accord with 
that of the industries which have come to it a-begging. 
The fervent community has encouraged its complaisance 
by applauding every deed of indiscriminate charity. 
Moreover, since the Commonwealth makes its cus- 
tomary levy upon the goods which flow to Australia as 
a result of the borrowings of private persons and State 
Governments, it reaps its most bountiful harvests in the 
periods of national extravagance. 

With such unity of spirit subsisting between private 
interests, public opinion, and the Commonwealth 
Treasury, it is not surprising that the tariff has grown 
rapidly both outwards and upwards. A document 
prepared for the International Economic Conference of 
1927 estimates the 1925 level of the Australian tariff 
as 145 per cent, of its 19x3 level — an increase with 
which no other country can compete. But it is easier to 
illustrate the increase than to measure it. In August, 
1928, the Australian Tariff Board reported: “The 
tariff wall is markedly rising. In the Customs tariff, 
1908, there were only eight items which provided ad 
valorem duties of 40 per cent, or over. ... In the 
existing Customs tariff there are 259 items or sub-items 
which provide ad valorem duties of 40 per cent. 01 
over. . . It is necessary to know something of the 



history of this expansion. The chief dates are : 1902, 
when the rival fiscal parties agreed upon a “com- 
promise tariff”; 1908, when Deakin’s Government, 
with the support of the Labour party, established a 
Protectionist tariff; and 1921, when the Hughes 
Government widely extended this tariff in order to safe- 
guard industries which had sprung up under the natural 
protection enjoyed during the war, and to satisfy the 
ambitions of economic nationalism which the war had 
stimulated. In this year also was established the Tariff 
Board, a body intended to be representative of the chief 
economic interests of Australia. The Government hoped 
that this new authority would make the tariff “scien- 
tific” and “elastic.” Elasticity was greatly desired 
because Australia was feeling the pressure of external 
competition, particularly from countries with de- 
preciated currencies ; science was demanded because 
some industries were complaining that they were 
burdened by the protection of others. The duties of the 
Tariff Board, as laid down by the Act of 1921 and suc- 
ceeding Acts, were to advise Parliament on tariff 
business requiring legislation, and to advise the Minister 
of Trade and Customs on matters of administration. 
Advice has usually meant decision. In some matters the 
Minister cannot act legally without this advice ; in others 
he is bound in practice to follow it. The Tariff Board 
has, in fact, wielded effective power in originating duties 
and deferring them and altering them and even (by 
classifying specified goods as “ concession items ”) dis- 
pensing with them. It has, it is true, complained recently 
that Parliament does not always accept its advice when 
tha.t advice is unpopular. It is, nevertheless, a body 
which makes decisions. It is at the very centre of 
Australia’s Protectionist system. 



Every system of tariff protection imposes costs in the 
hope of creating benefits which will outweigh the costs. 
The Tariff Board, in its earlier years, seemed only to 
see the benefits ; but, as it grew in experience, it began 
to insist upon the costs. In its earlier reports there was 
the stir of missionary ardour. The Board exhorted 
Australia to "foster” those industries which she had 
already established ; it proclaimed enthusiastically the 
"undoubted benefit that would accrue to the industrial 
community by the retention of the money now sent out 
of the country in payment of imports.” It took credit 
to itself for interviewing "distinguished visitors, com- 
mercial and industrial leaders, and journalists from Great 
Britain,” and for impressing on them the need of making 
their country so far Protectionist that it might grant 
preference to Australia’s primary products. All this 
Australia applauded. But suddenly, in June, 1925, there 
came a perplexing change. The Tariff Board had per- 
ceived, not only rising duties, but rising costs. The 
apparently healthy steel industry had declared that it 
could no longer survive without increased protection. 
No sooner had it put forward its plea than the workers 
employed in it appealed to the wage-fixing authorities 
for their share of benefit. "In this way,” complained 
the Board, “the benefits of Protection might be nullified 
and the system itself endangered.” The report of the 
following year was positively alarmist. The Board still 
assumed that the price of labour was the predominant 
element in cost, and warned Australia that the custom of 
"passing back and forth between the Federal Arbitra- 
tion Court and the Tariff Board for increments in wages 
and duties ’ ’ must produce ' ‘ an ever increasing wage 
rale and an ever ascending tariff.” It declared that the 
burden of Australian costs had laid any and every 



industry in the Commonwealth ‘ ‘ open to the commercial 
attack from Continental countries.” In face of these 
“ onslaughts ” the Board saw only one way of salvation 
— more protection and quicker protection. Believing 
that it could save the country, and that nobody else 
could, it called upon Parliament to ‘ ‘ clothe the Prime 
Minister or the Minister for Trade and Customs with 
power to increase the general tariff rates to any extent 
found desirable after report and recommendation by the 
Tariff Board.”- Without some such heroic remedy, and 
without a change of heart in the industrial unions, it 
could see “nothing but economic disaster ahead.” In 
the annual report of 1927 it painted a gloomy picture 
of soaring duties and stagnating industries, of a national 
policy going bankrupt, of a Protectionist system “failing 
to protect.” Inspired by a kind of gloomy wisdom, the 
Board now understand that it was vain to blame greedy 
trade unionists and cunning foreigners for every mis- 
fortune and difficulty. The whole nation must bear the 
responsibility for the success or failure of the national 
policy. In a long homily on “The Abuse of Protec- 
tion ’ ’ it convicted of sin one class after another : urban 
trade unionists, who sought to grow fat at the expense 
of the rural worker ; manufacturers, who squandered the 
benefits of Protection in profits and dividends when they 
should have been reducing prices and replacing obsolete 
plant ; fanners, who would not understand that they were 
supposed to be the basis of the whole system, and were 
threatening its foundations by demanding that they, too, 
must be protected, “not merely from foreign countries, 
but from sister dominions. ’ ’ This piece of plain speaking 
concluded by reminding the Australians that they had 
given shorf shrift to the aboriginals “on the plea that 
the white man could develop a high civilisation and make 



better use of the country. . . What if other peoples 
should use the same argument against them ? 

By the following year the Tariff Board had to some 
extent recovered from this hysteria, and discussed in a 
more measured tone the inflation of Australian costs. 
While it insisted that these costs were not wholly due to 
Protection, it suggested that the Government might pro- 
fitably fix a maximum limit for the protection which it was 
economically sound to grant to any industry. But it pos- 
sessed neither the training nor the leisure to investigate 
the costs of the Protectionist system considered as a 
whole. In 1927 the Prime Minister appointed an 
‘ ‘ expert ’ ’ committee to undertake that formidable task. 
The committee published its report in 1929. 

While insisting that it has not been able to secure com- 
plete data, and that its calculations are only provisional, 
the committee estimates that the excess cost of that part 
of Australia’s production which enjoys tariff protection 
(about one-quarter of the total production) is 24 per cent. 
The money figure, excluding £3,000,000 which is esti- 
mated to be the real cost of the preferences granted to 
Great Britain, is £36,000,000. In an attempt to appor- 
tion the incidence of this cost among Australian industries, 
the committee eliminates £7,000, 000 which falls on luxury 
expenditure and sticks there, and then allots £6,000,000 
of burden to naturally sheltered industries, £10,000,000 
to the protected industries, and £13,000,000 to the 
export industries. The naturally sheltered industries and 
the protected industries recover their costs in prices, or 
more than recover them. The export industries, being 
forced to sell in the world market, where the national 
State cannot adjust prices to its liking, recover nothing. 
The committee estimates that the tariff has raised Austra- 
lian prices generally about 10 per cent, above what they 



would be under a purely revenue tariff. The full burden 
of this excess cost falls on the export industries of wool 
and wheat and mining. But Australian prosperity and 
even Australian solvency depend upon these industries. 
For many years Australia has been borrowing from abroad 
sums of money which exceed the annual charge for interest 
upon her accumulated external debt. She has not been 
making present payment for all her imports. The time 
will come when her annual borrowings must grow smaller 
than her annual interest charges. This will force her to 
increase her exports . Obviously, it may become dangerous 
to pile the residuary irrevocable cost of Protection upon 
the export industries. 

The outward thrust of the tariff is far more dangerous 
than its upward tendency. It is possible to argue strongly 
for Protection as a policy of power, whereby the nation 
decides that certain industries are essential and that it 
must protect them at any cost. This was the policy 
adopted by the Tudors and praised by Bacon. But it may 
be doubted whether it is possible in a democracy, where 
the State attempts a weak impartiality in distributing its 
favours, and concessions are wrung from it by partner- 
ships of covetousness. Democratic politics, like inter- 
national diplomacy, develop a theory of “compensa- 
tions ” under which the tariff elaborates itself. Under an 
extensive tariff one industry’s protection becomes increas- 
ingly visible as another industry’s cost ; sooner or later 
that industry will be tempted to demand for itself protec- 
tion, so that it may bear the cost. There tends to be a 
drift towards a position in which nearly all industries enjoy 
protection ; but obviously, before this position has been 
reached, Protection will have ceased to protect. ‘ ‘ The 
people of Australia, says the expert committee, “must 
soon face the question of how far this can go on. At 



present almost every unsheltered industry is demanding 
assistance to meet the cost of assisting other industries, 
and each alleges that its difficulties are due to these costs. 
Reliance upon Government aid is increased, and discon- 
tent also, through real or supposed differences in benefits 
received. Clearly, we might reach the stage when the 
Government would be promoting each industry by taxing 
all the others, and the end in effect would be a perverted, 
expensive, and very unstable ‘ Free Trade.’ ” 

It might have been expected that the primary industries 
which produce for export would have revolted against this 
system. Instead, the weaker of them have adopted the 
policy of the French nobleman, who declared, while the 
old monarchy went riotously bankrupt : ‘ ‘ When others 
hold out their hands I hold out my hat.” To grant pro- 
tection is in Australia generally regarded, not as the con- 
ferring of a favour, but as the recognition of a right ; and 
what is due to one is due to all. If any industry is ‘ ‘ en- 
titled to a fair Australian price,” then every industry is 
entitled to this price. This doctrine appears without any 
apology in the following Ministerial statement, which 
(one imagines) astounded the gathering of economists 
who listened to it : 

“ It is now generally accepted that, in a country where 
■wages and the prices of secondary industry products are 
removed from the field of intense overseas competition by 
means of the Arbitration Court and the Customs tariff re- 
spectively, the dairyman is entitled to a fair Australian 
price, based on Australian living standards for that part 
of his output which is consumed by Australians, and that 
he should not be too rigidly governed by conditions ruling 
at the other end of the world .” 1 

1 Hon. T. Paterson, Economic Record, Supplement, 
January, 1928. 



The Minister who enunciated this doctrine has been 
very ingenious in applying it. The Australians have 
learned that it is more pleasant to dump than to be dumped 
upon. Ever since 1906 the Australians have, very pro- 
perly, attempted to protect themselves against dumping, 
and have professed great abhorrence for that practice. 
But the extension of Protection has now forced them to 
adopt that same practice themselves. It is by dumping 
that they give the dairy farmer his “fair Australian 
price.” They subsidise the entry of his butter into the 
world’s market to the extent of 4-^d. per pound. A duty of 
6d. per pound, which keeps New Zealand butter out of the 
Australian market, enables the butter industry to squeeze 
the necessary subsidy out of Australian consumers. The 
same methods prevail in other industries. Thus, in 
1925-26, the Australians paid £27 per ton for their sugar, 
which was sold at ^ix 6s. in the world’s markets. For 
their own dried fruits they paid £57 a ton, while English- 
men were buying them for ^37 a ton. The discrepancy 
would have been still greater did not Great Britain con- 
tribute a preference of a ton. 

There is no logical end to this process. A community 
which seeks justice must seek impartial justice. If the 
dairyman has a right to be protected, the wheat farmer, 
when he finds himself in difficulties, has an equal right to 
be protected. In 1929 it seemed that the price which the 
world would offer for a bushel of wheat must fall below 
the average cost of producing a bushel in Australia. A 
movement began among wheat farmers for claiming their 
right to “a fair Australian price.” Fortunately for 
Australia, a bad harvest in Canada improved the position 
of sellers. The agitation died down. But the misfortunes 
of the Canadians are an inadequate insurance for the 
Australians. Suppose that Canada had enjoyed a bumper 


98 Australia 

harvest ? Or suppose that the American fanners (who also 
were demanding a dumping scheme) had imposed their 
will upon Congress ? If either of these events had occurred, 
Australia’s wheat industry might have become resolutely 
mendicant. But this is an economist’s nightmare — of 
" Australia as one enormous sheep bestriding a bottom- 
less pit, with statesman, lawyer, landlord, farmer, and 
factory hand all hanging desperately to the locks of its 
abundant fleece.” The fleece is indeed abundant ; it sup- 
plies more than one-quarter of the world’s demand for 
wool and four-fifths of its demand for fine wool. But in 
this age of synthetic substitutes it is not certain that the 
world will continue to pay for wool the amount which 
Australia needs for the protection of all her mendicant 
industries. As a timely warning, the price of wool declined 
in 1929, almost to the extent of one-third. 

So there are economic limits to the extension of Pro- 
tection. Its logical extension may continue so long as the 
subsidies upon export do not extend to staple commodi- 
ties, and so long as the prices of these commodities pro- 
vide a large enough fund from which to draw the sub- 
sidies. The cost of Australia’s sugar scheme is estimated 
to be ^3,000,000 ; the cost of her butter scheme is esti- 
mated to be ^4,000,000. Australia exports more than 
three-quarters of her production of dried fruits ; but since 
the total value of this production is comparatively small, 
the cost of subsidies for dumping is only a few hundred 
thousand pounds. In the careless days of high living and 
plain thinking there seemed no reason to be niggardly 
about these small sums. Even so the Australians became 
aware of some very inconvenient tendencies. The im- 
mediate effect of subsidising an industry is to remove 
or to mitigate the economic check upon its expansion. 
Margins are extended and the average cost of production 



is raised, with the result that there is a continual clamour 
for increased subsidies. It has twice been necessary to 
raise the export bounty on butter. Sugar has demanded 
more drastic action. Imports of sugar are prohibited, and 
the extension of planting is controlled by Government 
through a system of compulsory licences. If there is any 
logical conclusion to the process, it is this. Yet Australia 
might avoid this conclusion if she could find some other 
community to carry her costs. With ‘ ' adequate 5 ’ prefer- 
ence the merry game might continue a long time yet. But 
this is a fantastic speculation. 

When Australia’s supply price for wheat rises or 
threatens to rise above the world’s demand price, the 
economic check is in fact imposed. It has, indeed, been 
suggested that Australia might increase her population to 
such an extent that she could consume all her own wheat. 
Beyond mentioning the opinion of agricultural experts 
that her wheat production is already sufficient to provide 
bread and seed for a community of more than 20,000,000 
people, it is unnecessary to consider this proposal except 
as promising material for an economic farce. ( First 
Citizen: “What, sir, is your profession?’’ Second Citi- 
zen: "lama mouth.”) Wheat covers more than two- 
thirds of the cultivated area of Australia ; the value of its 
annual production ranges over ^40,000,000. Two-thirds 
of the production is exported ; one-fifth to one-sixth is 
eaten at home ; the rest is seed. The proportion of ex- 
ported wheat to the total crop is not diminishing but in- 
creasing. The home consumer could not pay the sensa- 
tionally increased price which would be necessary to raise 
by 5d. or 6d. the average price per bushel received by the 
grower. Australia could not carry this cost. Nor is she 
likely to persuade the world to accept her definition of a 
“fair price.” Most of her customers are poorer than she 



is ; and they, too, have their idea of a fair price. If they 
can get what they want from other sellers, Australia, for 
all they care, may go out of business. This is sad but 
true. There is no health in Australia unless she can 
maintain her competitive strength. An estimate of the 
committee which examined the tariff here becomes 
relevant. The farmer, if the burden of Protection 
were lifted from his shoulders, might hope to make 
an additional 7d. on every bushel of wheat which he 

The committee does not recommend that this burden 
should be lifted. It contents itself with suggesting that it 
might be reduced. It recognises ‘ ‘ in the tariff as a whole, 
in spite of its undoubted extravagances, a potent instru- 
ment in maintaining at a given standard of living a larger 
population than would have otherwise been obtained.” 
Assuming that the output of the industries which could 
not live without Protection has a value of £75,000,000, 
and that the cost of protecting them is £36,000,000, it 
inquires whether Australia would have been able under 
Free Trade to make good the difference between this 
production and this cost. Alternative production to the 
value of £47,000,000 would have been necessary, and 
the committee, after a rapid survey of Australian re- 
sources and world markets, concludes that Australia could 
never have achieved this. The committee does not ex- 
amine the interesting possibility of subsidies to alternative 
production which would be comparable with the present 
costs of protection ; it is content to contrast the results of 
the existing system with the probable results of laissez 
faire. It considers that under Free Trade conditions the 
Australians might have enjoyed a higher real income pei 
head of the population, but that there would have beer 
a smaller population to enjoy it. It believes that th< 



benefits of the tariff have (taking the present population 
for granted) outweighed the costs. “But the benefits 
and the costs do not march together. As the tariff grows, 
the costs overtake the benefits, because the benefits have 
natural limits while the costs have not.’ 1 In short, Pro- 
tection has been profitable up to a point, but Australia has 
reached or passed that point. The medicine of the body- 
economic should not be made its daily food. It might even 
pay the Commonwealth (tacitly admitting a property in 
protected interests) to compensate certain industries for 
the withdrawal of Protection ; the committee says that 
there are industries whose products impose costs “as 
much as double of the wages and salaries paid in produc- 
ing them. ’ ’ The practical problem, the committee pleads, 
is, not whether there should be Protection, but what 
limits should be set to it, and how these limits should be 
determined. It urges the critics of the report to confine 
their criticisms to these main issues. 

This is too much to ask of economists. Politicians 
may be content with remedies, but economists must first 
be certain about their diagnosis. Before the committee 
had completed its investigations, Dr. Benham had 
already published his study of The Prosperity of 
Australia, in which he arrived at a very different 
diagnosis. He concluded that an Australian population 
no less numerous than that of to-day would have enjoyed, 
under Free Trade, a higher standard of living. It is 
possible that a majority of economists (if we can imagine 
them being called to a poll) would vote with Dr. Benham. 
The uninstructed layman may derive considerable 
pleasure from watching these professional contests, and 
may even applaud when either party makes a palpable 
hit ; but he dare not offer himself as a referee. He cannot 
decide the issues which are in dispute ; he can only feel 



certainty about those matters which the contesting 
economists agree not to dispute. 

All Australian economists endorse the warnings which 
the Tariff Board has uttered in recent years. All of them 
are agreed that the soaring costs of Protection are 
menacing Australian prosperity. The guardians of 
Australian orthodoxy have thought it necessary to refute 
these exasperating calculators ; but the great majority of 
Australians is unaware that there is anything to refute. 
The Australians are a good-tempered, open-handed 
people. They dislike refusing favours, and they do not 
count costs. Within a few months of the appearance of 
The Australian Tariff, they voted, by an overwhelming 
majority, for more Protection. 



i. The Unequal Incidence of Federation 

The six States which compose the Commonwealth of 
Australia differ from each other in the extent and variety 
of their natural resources, in their economic structure, 
and in their political strength. The three States of the 
eastern seaboard support more than five million of 
Australia’s six and a half millions of people. The elec- 
torate of Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, is ten times 
the size of the State of Victoria, which is about the same 
size as Great Britain. Victoria has twenty members in 
the House of Representatives, and New South Wales 
has twenty-eight ; whereas Western Australia and Tas- 
mania have only five members each — the minimum secured 
to them by the Constitution. A federal constitution 
assumes some measure of equality among its members, 
and the Constitution of the Commonwealth contains pro- 
visions which were destined to safeguard this equality. 
The outlying States complain that the safeguards have 
been inadequate. They do not deny the existence of 
natural inequalities, but they assert that Commonwealth 
policy has created new artificial inequalities which 
threaten the whole federal structure. 

The problem of inequality is entangled with the 
problem of Protection. Those States which depend most 
on wool and wheat and minerals complain that "the 




incidence of federation ’ ’ — a newly coined phrase — falls 
most heavily upon them. “Twenty-five years ago we 
all boarded the good ship Commonwealth for a lifelong 
voyage, with the full assurance that there would be only 
one class for all the passengers. During the voyage we 
found, to our great surprise, that there were four classes. 
Victoria and New South Wales had secured all the saloon 
cabins, South Australia and Queensland the second class, 
little Tasmania was put in the steerage, whilst Western 
Australia was compelled to work in the fo’c’sle.” While 
these rough fellows in the fo’c’sle are grumbling and 
threatening to leave the ship, the steerage passengers 
complain loudly of their horrible plight. They call for 
justice. Then another voice is heard. Somehow or other 
South Australia has got elbowed out from the second 
class. She is a lady in reduced circumstances, rather 
disdainful of the inferior orders among whom she is now 
thrust; genteel and querulous, she harps upon her 
wrongs. She does not threaten mutiny, like the rough 
sailors in the fo’c’sle, but she announces to the world at: 
large that certain people feel ‘ ‘ a spirit of resentment ' 
which may even endanger the federation. ” “ South \ 

Australia cannot remain satisfied with a union which must 
steadily impoverish her people.” 

Between 1925 and 1928 the Commonwealth appointed 
special commissions, which investigated in turn the com- 
plaints of Western Australia, Tasmania, and South 
Australia. Round the heads of the first commission there 
gathered a cloud of witnesses who damned federation as 
“a disastrous experiment,” “a very great mistake.” 
The commission was forced to admit that the issue of 
secession ‘ ‘ could not be dismissed with a sneer and a 
laugh.” Its minority reported that Western Australia 
should never have joined the Commonwealth ; that seces- 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 105 

sion was the only satisfactory remedy for her ‘ ' present 
disabilities ’ ’ ; that she should at any rate be permitted to 
retire from the Australian zolherein (in which she had 
been originally a tolerated late-comer) for twenty-five 
years. The majority recommended that she should re- 
ceive a money compensation. Compensation for what ? 
Western Australia is an economic island separated from 
her sister States by “a sea of solid ground." Her 
people assert that they have been subsidising through 
the tariff (in so far as it is protective) industrial develop- 
ment which is confined almost entirely to New South 
Wales and Victoria ; for no sane manufacturer would set 
out to conquer the Australian market by building his 
factory in a remote State which has a bare third of the 
population of Sydney. The south-east of Australia has 
"a natural aptitude for protected industries ” ; the west 
has “a natural aptitude for unprotected industries.” If 
Western Australians pay taxes which help Melbourne 
and Sydney to add to their factories, surely the people of 
Victoria and New South Wales should pay taxes which 
would help Western Australia to add to her farms ? But, 
on the contrary, the Commonwealth has retarded Western 
Australia’s economic progress in order that new factories 
might belch smoke over Sydney and new streets stretch 
out from Melbourne. The costs of the tariff fall not only 
upon private producers of wool and wheat and minerals 
'but upon the Government of the State, which must build 
railways, store water, and provide credit in order to open 
up for settlement the wide territories for which it is re- 
sponsible. It is true that these costs fall also upon other 
Australian Governments ; but the cost to the Common- 
wealth is a small thing compared with its profit as tax- 
receiver, and New South Wales or Victoria more than 
recover their losses through an increase of population, 

io6 Australia 

which reduces the overhead expenses of government. In 
New South Wales there are 412 inhabitants to share the 
cost of every mile of railway ; in Western Australia there 
are only 97 . Yet railway building has been necessary ; it 
has enabled the State to absorb in wheat production the 
workless miners dropped by decaying Kalgoorlie ; it has 
enabled her to lead the Commonwealth in zealous immi- 
gration policies. Surely it is no less glorious to bring a 
million new acres under the plough than to add a few 
suburbs of Melbourne ? These Western Australians 
declare that they are doing a true national work. They 
declare also that this work is being hindered by a false 
national policy. They protest that they will hardly be 
able to continue the work unless they receive compensa- 
tion for the burden imposed upon them by the policy. 
Their effort has cost them a burden of debt per head of 
their population which is almost double the average 
burden of the other Australian communities. Cannot their 
Government recover its losses by taxation ? Some day, 
perhaps, it will ; but for the present the taxes paid by new 
settlers hardly cover the cost of the social services which 
it is necessary to provide for them. The expansion of 
agriculture in Western Australia stimulates the growth 
of a manufacturing population beyond the borders of 
Western Australia. Once again it is the Commonwealth 
and the eastern States which gain. Western Australia 
has presented them with tens of thousands of citizens who 
pay taxes more than equal to the additional expense 
which they impose on Government services. 

South Australia advances similar arguments, rather 
less fervently but more precisely. The burden of taxa- 
tion per head of the South Australian population has 
grown till it is almost double the burden per head of the 
Victorian population. This is a scarecrow to industry and 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 107 

investment. “Unless the inequality due to unequal in- 
cidence of the cost of development is rectified, States 
with large areas but small populations will be unable to 
pursue a policy of development and will cease to absorb 
migrants, whilst they may even find difficulty in pro- 
viding for their own natural increase.” This is exactly 
what has happened in Tasmania. From 1900 to 1920 
half the natural increase of population in the island over- 
flowed to the mainland ; during the years which followed 
Tasmania lost all her natural increase, and more. Her 
population began actually to fall. And this, says Tas- 
mania, is due largely to circumstances over which she 
had no control. It is “the incidence of federation.” 

Inequalities due to federation do exist, but it is diffi- 
cult to measure them. It is indeed easy to see that the 
protection of sugar is a gift to Queensland. It is almost 
equally obvious that the protection of manufactures 
chiefly benefits Victoria and New South Wales, for in 
these two States the quantity of manufacturing produc- 
tion per head has increased since 1908 by about 50 per 
cent, and 40 per cent, respectively ; whereas in South 
Australia and Queensland it has increased only by about 
10 per cent., and in the other two States it has not in- 
creased at all. But the Commonwealth has always 
declined “to estimate in terms of money on a proper 
balance of account the alleged federal disabilities.” 
Professors rush in where Commonwealth servants fear to 
tread. An interesting estimate undertaken by two Tas- 
manian economists (Professors Brigden and Giblin) give 
the following results : 

108 Australia 

Subsidies and Costs on Account of Protected 
Commodities, 1925-26 : 

[In Pounds per Head of Population). 

N.S.W. Vie. Qld. S Aus. W. A us. Tas. 
Cost per head assuming ££££££ 
an equal distribution ... 6-34 6-34 6'34 6-34 6'34 6-34 

Subsidies per head ... 5'84 7‘55 84.6 3'93 3’84 4-29 

Excess of Subsidies ... — 1*21 2'i2 — — — 

Excess of Costs ‘50 — — 2 '41 2*50 2 05 

The authors of this estimate are aware that it makes the 
position of the outlying States appear better than it 
really is, since it assumes equality of costs for every 
State. Even so the unfavourable position of ‘the outlying 
States is strikingly clear. A more ambitious attempt to 
assess the incidence of federation upon a particular State 
has led two South Australian economists to the conclu- 
sion that South Australia, if she seceded from the 
Commonwealth and undertook all the obligations which 
the Central Government now performs on her behalf, 
would benefit immediately to the extent of £1,000,000 
per annum, and ultimately to the extent of £1,700,000 
per annum. 1 

The authors of these calculations would admit that 
they are to a considerable degree speculative. Nor are 
they concerned with the politics of Australian federalism. 
The political problem is serious : there is danger of "log- 
rolling on a colossal scale." Section 96 of the Constitu- 
tion permits the Federal Parliament to "grant financial 
assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as 
the Parliament shall think fit." But the Parliament, 
without expert aid, is not fitted to think on such difficult 

1 The Economic Effects of Federation, by L. G. Melville 
and J. W. Wainwright, Adelaide, 1929. 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 109 

questions. The Constitution provided for an Interstate 
Commission, which (although not intended for this pur- 
pose) would have been admirably adapted to inform and 
advise Parliament ; but, unfortunately, the Interstate 
Commission as constituted by Parliament was held by the 
High Court to be incapable of exercising the judicial 
powers deemed essential to its usefulness. So the Com- 
mission died. In its stead Parliament depends for in- 
formation upon special commissions and special agita- 
tions. The aggrieved States are encouraged to believe 
that it pays them to weep and bully. The other States 
are prone to suspect their poor relations of blackmail 
and bribery. There is an urgent need to re-establish the 
Interstate Commission, or else to set up some other body 
fit to act in this matter as 11 the eyes and ears of Parlia- 
ment.” Otherwise, federal politics must become deeply 
infected with cynicism. Democracies, when they are en- 
thusiastic, are often glorious and sometimes dangerous ; 
when they become cynical they are repulsive. 

2. The Power of the Purse 

The process of redressing the inequalities due to 
federation may increase those inequalities, for the 
Government which grants compensation may be tempted 
to grant it under conditions, and the Government which 
receives it may be forced into a position of dependency. 
The same tendencies may operate to the detriment of 
all the States of a federation, including even those who 
have been most favoured by Federal policy. Some 
States may have greater financial strength than others, 
and yet may find that their resources are inadequate 
for the performance of their allotted tasks. The pre- 
dominant financial power of the Commonwealth has, in 
fact, enabled it to swing the balance of the Constitution 



against the States, considered as a body. The framers 
of the Constitution seem hardly to have anticipated this. 
Ardent apostles of federation actually prophesied, in the 
late nineties, that a national Government would cost the 
Australian people no more than a yearly half-crown a 
head — “the price of registering a dog.” But the Con- 
stitution set permanent limits to the financial power of 
the States, and only temporary limits to the financial 
power of the Commonwealth. It granted to the Com- 
monwealth exclusive control of Customs and Excise, and 
concurrent rights of taxation in every other field worth 
harvesting. It flattered the States with the prospect of 
receiving the ‘ ' surplus revenue ’ ’ collected by the 
Commonwealth ; but, in fact, it did no more than 
guarantee to them for ten years 75 per cent, of Customs 
and Excise revenue. When those ten years had passed, 
the States lay at the legal mercy of the Commonwealth. 
The Commonwealth has not been merciful. From 1910 
to 1926, out of the proceeds of Customs and Excise, it 
returned annually to every State 25 shillings for every 
head of the State’s population. This fixed per capita pay- 
ment represented a diminishing proportion of the Customs 
and Excise which the Commonwealth was collecting. 

Customs and Excise Revenue Customs and Excise R evenue 
received by South Australia received by South Australia 
as a Percentage of T otal as a Percentage of T otal 

Customs and Excise Revenue Receipts of State fromTaxa- 
collected in the State. tion and Commonwealth 


Per Cent . 

Per Cent. 








1 7 


(Compiled by L. G Melville and W. J. Wainwright.) 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution ill 

The States might feel more confidence in the future 
if they did not have to fear the competition of the Com- 
monwealth in the field of direct taxation. Every con- 
current power of the Commonwealth Parliament is also 
a prior power, for when a law of a State is inconsistent 
with a law of the Commonwealth the latter prevails. 
This means in taxation that the Commonwealth (to quote 
its Crown Solicitor) gets “first cut.” “ If, for instance, 
the Commonwealth put a tax of ioo per cent, on income, 
there would be nothing left for the State to take ; but 
as long as the Commonwealth confines itself to 99 per 
cent, the State can take the 1 per cent.” Neither the 
Australian taxpayers nor the Australian States need fear 
such sensational brigandage. But they must reckon with 
a determination of the Commonwealth to make full use 
of its powers when the need arises. The Commonwealth 
first entered the field of direct taxation in 1910, when 
it imposed a land tax. Within the next seven years it 
imposed estate duties, an income tax, an entertainments 
tax, and a war-profits tax. Some of these taxes 
originated as war measures, but the war merely hurried 
on what was bound in any case to happen. All this is 
very serious for the States. Their income is dispropor- 
tionate to their responsibilities. In attempting to perform 
their function of developing Australian lands and pro- 
viding social services for the populations settled upon 
them, they have piled up uneconomic debts and 
deficits. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, 
passed merrily through the post-war decade, spend- 
ing heavily on war debts, pensions, and the miscel- 
laneous luxuries of national life, yet piling up fat sur- 

The power of the purse consists, not only in the right 
to tax, but in the right to spend. The same people 

1 12 Australia 

chooses State Parliaments and the Commonwealth 
Parliament, and this people would not permit its legis- 
lators to ring Australia with forts and batteries while 
the country was crying out for roads. Defence is a 
Commonwealth power, but road-building (so it would 
appear from a perusal of the Constitution) lies within the 
province of the States. The Commonwealth, neverthe- 
less, can initiate road policies. It has exercised the right 
of granting financial assistance to the States for this 
specific purpose. It has, in addition, assumed the posses- 
sion of a still wider right. Section 81 of the Constitution 
lays it down that all moneys received by the Common- 
wealth shall form one consolidated fund to be appro- 
priated ‘ 1 for the purposes of the Commonwealth . ’ ’ What 
are the purposes of the Commonwealth ? Some eminent 
authorities assert that they are limited to the functions 
explicitly assigned to the Commonwealth by the Con- 
stitution. But the Commonwealth’s law officers have 
taken a more generous view. The Commonwealth, they 
say, is more than a legislative body, more than a system 
of government ; it is a community, of which every 
Australian citizen and every Australian State is a mem- 
ber. Parliament, therefore, may vote money for any- 
thing which is a purpose of this community. It has voted 
money for maternity bonuses : it could vote money for 
child endowment. It has voted money for roads : it 
could vote money (why not ?) for railways. It could, in 
short, assume the effective direction of every function 
for which the 'States imagine themselves responsible. It 
could make itself everybody’s fairy godmother. This is 
the meaning of a theory which hitherto has not been 
challenged in the courts. The States have good reason 
to fear the Commonwealth when it brings gifts. When 
it first granted money for roads, three States attempted 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 113 

to refuse it. They said that the Commonwealth, in 
offering the gift, was exceeding its legal powers. But 
in the end they dared not refuse the gift. No community 
will permit its leaders to bolt the door against a fairy 
godmother. And yet there is something irresistibly 
amusing in the spectacle of a fairy godmother, a very 
benevolent fairy godmother, peering mournfully into an 
empty purse. Australia was favoured with this spectacle 
in 1928 and the years which followed, when Common- 
wealth treasurers, in their turn, knew the perplexities 
of an unbalanced Budget. 

Before this calamity befell, the Commonwealth and 
the States had already argued their way to a com- 
promise. The transactions of those years were not with- 
out their ironies. On the one hand stood the Common- 
wealth, so very lordly, devising new ways and means of 
diminishing its embarrassing surpluses, and professing 
a deep concern for “the dignity and stability of each 
of the States’’ ; on the other side stood the States, 
trying so hard to feel dignified and stable, yet looking 
for all the world like a gathering of the genteel poor 
at a distribution of rations. Firmly fixed in the Common- 
wealth’s mind was the naive idea that it was "vicious ” 
for one authority to raise money and another to spend 
it. Virtue, it told the States, compelled it to keep for 
itself all the money raised from Customs and Excise ; 
in compensation it would consider a retirement from the 
field of income tax. From the genteel poor there came 
no cries of gratitude. Rather, they protested angrily 
that they were being put upon. They would agree to 
nothing. So the Commonwealth, persistently godly even 
though misunderstood, abolished the per capita pay- 
ments from Customs — but postponed its renunciation of 
income tax. Soon it had the genteel poor gathered around 




it again. And this time the Commonwealth Government 
showed financial statesmanship. From the gathering of 
June, 1927, came an agreement which had been fore- 
shadowed, twenty years earlier, by proposals of Alfred 
Deakin. The Commonwealth agreed to take over all 
State debts, and for fifty-eight years to pay annually 
a contribution of more than seven and a half million 
sterling towards the interest upon them. This sum is 
equal to the per capita payments which the Common- 
wealth made to the States out of Customs revenue in 
1926-27. The Commonwealth agreed also to join with 
the States in contributing to sinking funds for the extinc- 
tion of existing and future debts. And henceforward both 
Commonwealth and States consented to renounce some 
of their irresponsibility as borrowers and to work through 
a single Loan Council. 

The States accepted this compromise faute de mieux. 
The people of Australia ratified it in 1928. It has in it 
(we have no time to inquire how) the germ of new 
inequalities. For a time the States find themselves better 
off under the new arrangement than they were under 
the old. But the time is comparatively short. At the end 
of fifty-eight years the States will be receiving nothing 
more than 5s. per cent, as a contribution to sinking fund 
upon new debt. The arrangement has freed them from 
immediate apprehension of unification through finance. 
But, if we take a longer view, we see that the position 
remains as Deakin stated it so brilliantly in 1902. “As 
the power of the purse in Great Britain established by 
degrees the authority of the Commons,” he then wrote, 
“ so it will in Australia ultimately establish the authority 
of the Commonwealth. The rights of self-government of 
the States have been fondly supposed to be safeguarded* 
by the Constitution. It has left them legally free, but) 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 115 

financially bound to the chariot-wheels of the Common- 
wealth. Their need will be its opportunity.” 

3. Some Tendencies of Legal Interpretation 

Even that legal freedom of which Deakin spoke 
so confidently has become sadly attenuated. The 
‘ ‘ sovereignty ’ ’ on which the States have prided them- 
selves is now manifestly bedraggled ; indeed, the High 
Court has held that it would be mischievous and un- 
founded to ascribe sovereignty to States which can be 
sued in tort without their own consent. And yet it did 
seem at one time that the States might plausibly claim 
some of the attributes of sovereignty, for section 106 of 
the Constitution assured them that, “subject to this 
Constitution,” their own pre-existing Constitutions would 
continue “as at the establishment of the Common- 
wealth ” ; and section 107 emphasised this guarantee by 
reserving to the States every power which was not ex- 
plicitly surrendered to the Commonwealth or explicitly 
withdrawn from the States. The substantial meaning 
of section 107 seems to be identical with that of the 
tenth amendment, which has secured to the States of the 
American Union that reserve power, or “police ” power, 
which enables them to retain control over property and 
industry. But the Australian States have learned in 
bitterness that “it is not always the residuary legatee 
who comes off best under a will. Sometimes the specific 
legatees take the bulk of the estate and leave him nothing 
but the debts.’’ 

The most striking demonstration of tins truth is to be 
found in the history of industrial arbitration. The States 
did not explicitly surrender any of their power to control 
industry within their own boundaries. But section 51 



of the Constitution empowered the Commonwealth 
Parliament “to make laws for the peace, order, and 
good government of the Commonwealth with respect 
to . . . (xxxv.) Conciliation and arbitration for the 
prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extend- 
ing beyond the limits of any one State.” The High 
Court has interpreted and re-interpreted almost every 
word of this clause, and from its labours there has 
emerged a situation which appears, to the layman, to 
be bewilderingly topsy-turvy. There is, first of all, the 
word arbitration. The High Court held originally that 
arbitration was a procedure inter partes ; the Arbitration 
Court, therefore, had no power to declare a common 
rule. However, a succession of judgments has progres- 
sively modified this strict interpretation, with the result 
that the Arbitration Court may now regulate the indus- 
trial concerns of individuals who have not been cited 
in arbitration proceedings. “The absence of power to\ 
make a common rule is thus left without a supporting j 
principle.” In the second place, the idea of dispute, and 
of what constitutes the prevention of a dispute, has been 
impressively expansive. Early decisions upheld the point 
of view that it took more than a formal denial of a formal 
demand to constitute a dispute ; but, as the result of 
later decisions, a dispute became little more than a means 
by which an industrial organisation could bring business 
into court. Simultaneously, the power to prevent and 
settle disputes grew into a power to impose upon industry 
regulations as minute and multitudinous as those of a 
mediaeval guild. And, in the third place, there has been 
a most important interpretation of the phrase ' ‘ extend- 
ing beyond the limits of any one State ” The fr am ers 
of the Constitution assumed that only those industries 
which employed nomadic workers, such as sailors and 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 1 17 

shearers, could be afflicted with disputes extending 
beyond the limits of a State ; but quite early in the life 
of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the principle 
was established that any industry, even though its opera- 
tions were confined to the limits of a country town, 
might enjoy a dispute extending beyond the limits of 
one State, provided that the workers in the industry 
made ‘ ‘ common cause ’ ’ with their fellow-workers across 
the border. The workers in many industries have done 
this with alacrity, for it may happen that they will get 
from the Commonwealth court what they have failed to 
get from their State court or their State Wages Board. 
In this way has originated the Australian system of a 
dual regulation of industry, and the Australian game 
of “playing off one court against the other.” Capital 
and labour have learnt to fight a flying battle of legal 
shifts and dodges, chasing each other from court to 
court, elaborating a harassing tactic of quibble and 
obstructiveness and evasion. The spectacle of these 
manoeuvres is unique ; one can see nothing quite like it 
in any other country of the world. 

The States, naturally, have resented the competition 
of a Commonwealth authority. But they have had to 
accept more than competition. The Commonwealth Arbi- 
tration Court has become their master. It has, first of all, 
intervened between the State Governments and their ser- 
vants. Until 1920 the States retained the power of decid- 
ing, in accordance with their own laws, what remunera- 
tion and what conditions of labour they would offer to 
their own employes. But in 1920 the decision of the High 
Court in the Engineers’ Case transferred effective control 
in these matters to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. 
Six years later this court became the overlord of State 
Parliaments. Until 1926 the State Parliaments had exer- 

1 1 8 Australia 

cised supreme legislative control over intra-State industry . 
But in that year the High Court decided, in the 44 Hours- 
Week Case, that an award of the Commonwealth Arbi- 
tration Court could override the statute of a State Parlia- 
ment. The decision cut at the very foundations of that 
self-government which the six members of the Federal 
body had enjoyed. And this implied a curtailment of the 
rights of self-government belonging to the Australian 
people, whether this people is considered as a community 
or as a communitas communitatum. For the Common- 
wealth power over industry which had been so signally 
exalted was not a parliamentary power. The ultimate 
authority over Australian industry now belonged to judges. 
The Commonwealth Parliament had created the Common- 
wealth Arbitration Court, but the creature was greater 
than its creator. Unless the Australian people desired to 
deprive their elected representatives of effective power 
over industry, they must do one of two things. Either 
they must treat the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as 
an over-mighty subject, and, by abasing it, restore to the 
State Parliaments legislative control over industry, or 
they must grant to the Commonwealth Parliament power 
to legislate “for the peace, order, and good government 
of the Commonwealth” with respect to industrial matters. 
Some day, perhaps, the Australians will decide to do one 
thing or the other. But in the years which followed the 
44 Hours-Week Case they knew not how to choose ; con- 
flicting exasperations twisted their thought and confused 
their will. 

The foregoing is no more than a layman’s sketch of the 
history of the arbitration power. Perhaps it betrays a lay- 
man’s amazement at the devastating effects of judicial 
interpretation upon the balance of the Constitution, and a 
layman’s inability to venerate where he does not under- 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 119 

stand. Yet it is not difficult to comprehend the elements 
of those doctrines which have guided the High Court in 
its difficult task of interpreting the Constitution. The 
architects of the Constitution studied with great care the 
pre-existing framework of the United States of America ; 
the interpreters of the Constitution proved, in their early 
judgments, that they had studied the principles of 
America’ s constitutional law. In particular, they accepted 
those doctrines of “implied prohibitions’’ or “mutual 
non-interference” which Chief Justice Marshall had 
elaborated for the preservation of the federal pact. 
Underlying these doctrines there is the assumption that 
a Federal constitution, from its very nature, intends the 
survival and effective usefulness both of the original com- 
munities which have united in the federation and of the 
new community which their union has created. The 
duality of loyalties which exists under federalism does not 
(unless the federation is very ill-constructed) create 
serious difficulties for the private citizen. It is not hard 
for him to serve two masters. The problem of federalism r 
is rather a problem of Governments. Unless the instru-/ 
mentalities of the central Government are safeguarded 
from the interference of the local Governments, and the 
instrumentalities of the local Governments from the inter- 
ference of the central Government, the authority either 
of the one or of the others will be obstructed and maimed. 
In its earlier judgments, therefore, the High Court drew 
“an area of immunity” round each of Australia’s 
Governments. It assumed in the Constitution an implica- 
tion that each grant of power to the Commonwealth must 
be interpreted subject to the principle that the State must 
be preserved. But in 1920, in the Engineers’ Case, it 
announced that it would depend no more upon American 
authorities (“however illustrious ’ ’) and upon their “ im- 



plied prohibitions.” The Constitution was embodied in a 
statute of the Imperial Parliament, and its meaning must 
be ascertained by applying the known rules for interpret- 
ing statutes. “ We must look to the words of the Con- 
stitution, look at the specific subject-matter of legislative 
power contained in the Constitution, and that power is 
subject to no limitations save those which can be found in 
the Constitution.” This ‘‘natural” method of interpre- 
tation removed the chief legal obstacle which had hitherto 
delayed the advance of the central power. It coincided 
with a stricter interpretation of section 109, by which 
each advance became more definite and effective. This 
section provides that a State law shall be invalid when it 
is inconsistent with a Commonwealth law. The High 
Court held formerly that inconsistency and invalidity 
existed only when the citizen could not obey one law 
without disobeying the other. The present interpretation 
Is stricter, and maintains in effect that “ once the Com- 
monwealth has entered a room, no one else can enter it.” 

4. Political Pressures 

The High Court protested, in the Engineers’ Case, 
that it was not concerned with the possible abuse by the 
Commonwealth of the extensive powers which the Con- 
stitution entrusted to it. “The extravagant use of the 
granted powers in the working of the Constitution is a 
matter to be guarded against by the constituencies and 
not by the Courts. ’ ’ The essential strength of the central 
power lies in its financial predominance, and the essential 
check upon its exercise of financial sovereignty is the 
check imposed by political expediency and public opinion. 
It may be said generally that public opinion has shown in 
a negative but not in a positive manner its determination 
to defend ‘ ‘ the might and majesty of the Federal Con- 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 121 

stitution” (the phrase and its intention are Deakin’s) 
against unificationist encroachments. What it has done 
is to reject, with persistent and sometimes undis criminat- 
ing obstinacy, proposed amendments of the Constitution 
designed to enlarge Commonwealth powers at the ex- 
pense of State powers. What it has not done is to organise 
itself politically with the object of restraining the Common- 
wealth legislature. In truth, Australian public opinion 
(even that section of it which is disposed to favour 1 ‘ State 
rights ) has only a fitful, ineffective interest in main- 
taining the Federal balance. Otherwise, it would have 
made better use of the Senate, which was designed for 
this very purpose. Each of the States is equally repre- 
sented, as a single constituency, in the Senate ; but Sena- 
ors are chosen by the ordinary party machinery, and 
vo e, almost invariably, in the ordinary party way. The 
Australian parties are divided by the industrial issue, and 

1 u- S u e 1 eco ^ )m ' lc struggle operating through politics 
w ich makes Parliament interesting to the great majority 
ot voters. Indeed, there are some Australians who are 
genuinely alarmed lest the Commonwealth Parliament, 
having settled the great national issues of racial and fiscal 
pohcy and having guided Australia through the war, 
should begin to weary the electors through failing to 
express the natural and healthy divisions of class feeling 
and class opinion. This alarm is unnecessary. The 

Parha ™ ent does ex press these natural 
and healthy divisions But so do half a dozen Stale legis- 
latures. To those who believe that “the unification of 
our social aspirations” transcends all geographical 
economic, and mental diversities, this is a most ilfogicai 
and exasperating dilution of political interest and energy, 

Jeonhw" p f ty ’ii p ? rtic .? lar > is Pigged to work for 
a continent-wide political uniformity which will enforce a 

122 Australia. 

continent-wide social uniformity. But it is to be noted 
that idealists and ref ormers of every stamp — philanthropic 
women’s organisations, missionary societies, friends of 
the aborigines, prohibitionists, moral regenerators — are 
prone to be unificationists so far as their particular pur- 
pose or crank is concerned. They understand that it is 
easier to persuade or stampede one Parliament than it is 
to persuade or stampede six. Moreover, the Common- 
wealth is (by contrast) rich ; and in these days the man 
with a noble purpose flies instinctively to the man with 
a deep purse. 

The temptation to be philanthropic is very strong ; it 
assails even the best of us. The Commonwealth is 
tempted, not only from without, but from within. It 
started its administrative career with a Governor-General, 
nine Ministers of the Crown, and a messenger-boy bor- 
rowed from Victoria ; but it now supports a powerful 
bureaucracy with a vested interest in its own growth. 
Students of “ actual government ” declare that Australia 
would have enjoyed more efficient and economical ad- 
ministration if the Commonwealth had been more ready 
to work through State organisations, and less anxious to 
establish duplicate organisations of its own. Such self- 
restraint could hardly be expected from a Government 
which has great financial power ; and Commonwealth 
officials now deal with miscellaneous matters like “de- 
velopment,” herd-testing, housing — matters which State 
officials had imagined, in their simplicity, to be their con- 
cern. These State officials resent the advance of the 
Commonwealth bureaucracy, but they have not been able 
to stem it. Public opinion, even when it disapproves in 
theory of the drift towards unification, shows itself in- 
clined to accept accomplished facts. In South Australia 
and Tasmania it is not uncommon to find among the same 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 123 

people both a grievance against the central Government 
and an impatient weariness of the necessitous local 
Government. ' ' Let us hand the whole business over to 
the Commonwealth,” men sometimes say, “and have 
done with it.” 

In addition to these frontal pressures, some of the 
States have had to withstand attacks from the rear. Just 
as Western Australia may cry secession to frighten the 
Government in Canberra, so may aggrieved districts of 
New South Wales raise a bogie of “New States” to 
frighten the Government in Sydney. To attempt a reason- 
able criticism of the New States movement would take 
us too far from our present inquiry. In its extreme form of 
“ Australia Subdivided ” it manifests a grotesque ignor- 
ance or contempt of geographical realities. Even in 
northern New South Wales, where the case for a new 
State must be examined seriously, it has hitherto broken 
down before expert criticism, and particularly before 
expert financial criticism. Attempts have been made to 
give an Australian significance to the various local agita- 
tions by federating them in a common organisation with 
a common programme. This programme is smudged and 
vague, and must be so ; for of those who subscribe to the 
programme some wish within their hearts that they were 
within the boundaries of a neighbouring State, while 
others, consciously or unconsciously, desire the unifica- 
tion of Australian Government with devolution of govern- 
mental privileges to local bodies. Between these two 
extremes there is a blur of divergent aspirations and 
interests. But whatever form the campaign for New 
States may take, it merges at last into the campaign for 
increased Commonwealth powers. It is essentially an invi- 
tation to the Commonwealth to curb the power of the 



The forces of public opinion which make for unification 
are indeed formidable. But they have to struggle with 
opposing forces which make for decentralisation and 
diversity. In contrast with the racial and social uniformity 
which is met with over the whole Australian continent, 
there are areas of a marked economic individuality. These 
areas (although there are exceptions to prove the rule) 
correspond generally with State boundaries. In contrast 
with the United States of America, Australia has an in- 
considerable volume of Interstate trade ; a glance at the 
railway map will show how the channels of trade run 
within the various State boundaries, up and down from 
the interior to the sea. A visitor to Australia who follows 
the usual route along the southern and up the eastern 
coast will not fail to mark definite areas of political out- 
look corresponding with these definite areas of economic 
activity ; he will indeed be unusually strong-minded if his 
judgment upon Australian problems does not change con- 
siderably as he changes his geographical location. It is, 
moreover, paradoxically true that the pressure of the 
national Government has itself intensified some diversities ; 
it has, for example, made the Western Australians more 
unlike the easterners (at least in their economic interests 
and ideas) than they would otherwise have been. Hence 
arises a counter-pressure. Even if it does not work directly 
through the Australian party system, it does nevertheless 
make itself felt. Those Western Australians do not 
threaten idly ; they would, in fact, secede rather than 
submit to a central Government exploiting remorselessly 
all the resources which it can legally command. But they 
are ready to compromise. And from compromise there 
begin to emerge new methods of government which 
belong neither to the old, carefully balanced federalism 
nor to a monstrously simple unification, but which are 
more elusive and perhaps more effective than either. 

The Shifting Balance of the Constitution 125 

There has been a drift from Jeffersonian federalism, 
but it may not end in a Napoleonic centralisation. The 
tendency may rather be for the old rigid federalism to 
give way before a new flexible federalism. The needs of 
the Australian people may, perhaps, find satisfaction, 
without any radical amendment of the Constitution, 
merely by a shifting of political gravity and emphasis, 
by indirect pressure of the central authority, by co-opera- 
tion and interpenetration and the creation of intermediate 
organisations between the various centres of activity. 
Chapter VIII. will describe some of these new organisa- 
tions. Two may be mentioned here. In recent years the 
centralising tendency of the Commonwealth has to a large 
extent expressed itself in the centralisation of thought upon 
problems of economics and applied science and govern- 
ment. The States have not seriously resisted this ten- 
dency when it has embodied itself in institutions like the 
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the 
Development and Migration Commission. They have, 
on the whole, willingly and sometimes very usefully 
co-operated with these bodies. Nor is it without signifi- 
cance that a consultative body unknown to the Constitu- 
tion, the Premiers’ Conference, wrangled over the finan- 
cial problem and in the end agreed upon a settlement' 
which contains a renunciation of immediate power upon 
the part of the Commonwealth. The financial agreement 
of 1927 at least assured the States that they would not 
be starved to death during the next generation ; and it 
created an economic institution, the Loan Council, inter- 
mediate between Commonwealth and States, and with a 
limited regulative power over both. The creation of these 
institutions seems to indicate a disposition of the Com- 
monwealth to substitute influence for aggression, to be 
content with the indirect exercise of power, to distribute 
its new resources through the old channels. 

126 Australia 

The disposition of the Commonwealth, however, is apt 
to change with the rise and fall of the parties who con- 
trol in turn the Government of the Commonwealth. The 
success of the Labour party in the elections of 1929 
meant that indirect methods were out of favour, and that 
the unificationist spirit would have its turn. For the fifth 
time since 191 1 the Australian people would have to vote 
Yes or No to proposed amendments of the Constitu- 
tion granting to the Commonwealth Parliament effec- 
tive powers over industry. Some day, perhaps, out 
of pure weariness, a majority of Australian citizens and 
of the Australian States will vote Yes. One wonders, 
nevertheless, whether this frontal attack upon State 
rights does not absorb a disproportionate amount of the 
national energy. For amidst the flowing currents of 
financial decision and economic interdependence the cum- 
bersome four-square solidity of the old political sovereign- 
ties and their institutions may become as irrelevant and 
absurd as a Venetian galley in the middle of the Atlantic 
Ocean. Already in this modern world forces are at work 
which may be destined to make checks and balances and 
even omnipotent sovereigns no less obsolete than feudal 
emperors and prince-bishops. The tendencies of the age 
have always worked rapidly in Australia, for they have 
worked over a smooth surface where the past has left 
no historic obstacles to divert them or dam them back. 
Perhaps it is a tendency of the age, as well as of the 
place, which is undermining the old-fashioned ramparts 
of the Australian States. 

Note. — This chapter was written before the Report of the 
Royal Constitution on the Constitution published at the end 
of 1929; but it is largely based on a study of the evidence 
submitted to the Royal Commission. 


The importance of visible and immediate things is com- 
monly exaggerated in political controversy and even in 
political study. In Australia, as in every other federation, 
constitutional problems are always visible and frequently 
immediate. Each Government is perpetually aware of 
the limits set to its power by the Constitution, and 
magnifies in its imagination the triumphs which it might 
achieve were those limits obliterated or narrowed. Every 
citizen, despite his obligation of a double loyalty, is 
tempted by his material interests and mental disposition 
to exalt the virtues of one Government or (perhaps this 
is more accurate) to magnify the vices of the other. It 
is easy to persuade a Western Australian farmer that his 
economic task would be simple if there were no ‘ ‘ Com- 
monwealth interference” ; it is not difficult to persuade 
a Melbourne radical that “State rights ” are the chief 
obstacle to social reform. It follows that many great 
political questions become entangled in constitutional 
wrangles. And this is a pity, for the most serious 
problems in Australia are not constitutional but political. 
This truth becomes evident when one reflects that the 
Commonwealth, the States, and the Commonwealth and 
States together — when, as in the Murray Valley, they 
co-operate in a definite task — all make the same economic 
mistakes for the same political reasons. 

Perhaps it is a weakness of democracies that, having 
willed an end, they try to shuffle out of willing the means. 
The Australians, certainly, constantly confuse end and 




means, and they do this because their easy-going good- 
nature and intellectual laziness make them reluctant to 
refuse favours, to count the cost, to discipline the policies 
which they have launched. These policies, therefore, yield 
diminishing returns, until at last they may become a 
positive danger to the national purpose which has called 
them into existence. We have already seen that the 
increasing costs of Protection are endangering the essen- 
tial purpose of Protection. We shall observe the same 
tendencies at work in Australian State socialism. 

State ownership and management of economic re- 
sources may be preferred to private ownership and 
management for two reasons : first, that the State, being 
more powerful than any person or group within it, may 
exploit and manage these resources more efficiently ; 
and, secondly, that the State, being the instrument of 
the sovereign people, may be expected to exercise its 
powers for the public good, whereas a private person 
or corporation enjoying the same powers might pursue 
selfish aims inconsistent with the public good. Social 
democracy, therefore, aims both at efficiency and at 
popular control. Can these two aims be reconciled ? 
Australians were compelled to realise, before the end of 
the nineteenth century, that they could not be reconciled 
through the old institutions. The combination of amateur 
and expert, of responsible Ministers and departmental 
officials, is adequate for the political management of the 
State. The permanent officials enjoy “status”; and 
since they cannot be dismissed except by judgment of a 
public service tribunal, they need not fear the caprice of 
a Minister if their duty compels them to give him un- 
palatable advice. They cannot, on the other hand, defy 
the wishes of the sovereign people, for they must take 
their orders from a Minister who enjoys the confidence 

State Socialism 


of the representatives of the people. Such an arrange- 
ment is admirably suited for the conduct of foreign 
affairs, and it works well enough (provided one is not too 
idealistic) even as regards education, which in the Aus- 
tralian States is controlled by vast centralised depart- 
mental machines. Similarly, the agricultural depart- 
ments, which are concerned chiefly with the collection 
and dissemination of knowledge, have achieved consider- 
able success. But if the State is to manage its business 
undertakings successfully, popular control must make 
large concessions to technical efficiency. The manage- 
ment of a business undertaking must be given consider- 
able powers over its staff (for example, the right to pro- 
mote for merit and to dismiss for incompetence), and 
must be sheltered from the hurly-burly of politics. It is 
true that the Commonwealth, like the United Kingdom, 
controls its post-office by means of a Ministerial depart- 
ment ; but three separate commissions of inquiry have 
recommended that the post-office should be handed over 
to an independent statutory authority. It is through this 
kind of instrumentality — through boards and commis- 
sions — that the Australian States have carried out their 
semi-socialistic ventures. Yet it still remains difficult to 
reconcile the two aims of efficiency and popular control. 
There are all sorts of boards and commissions, variously 
organised and enjoying various amounts of power. Some 
of them are elected, while others are nominated by the 
Crown ; some are expert, while others are representative 
of different interests ; some of them (the savings banks) 
are completely independent, while the great majority are 
in varying degrees dependent upon the Treasury and 
upon departmental Ministers. The Australians seem to 
have been vaguely conscious of an awkward dilemma : 
on the one hand, to achieve business success it would 




seem to be necessary to observe business principles ; on 
the other hand, if State businesses are to be tied down 
by business principles, what particular advantage is there 
in running State businesses? In the last resort, Aus- 
tralian Parliaments and people have generally preferred 
the pleasures of democracy to the profits of business, 
and have been unwilling to surrender to boards and com- 
missions the essentials of power. 

Every student of Australian socialism must be deeply 
in the debt of Mr. F. W. Eggleston, who has for several 
years been collecting, with great industry and skill, a 
vast mass of facts relevant to this subject. The articles 
which Mr. Eggleston has contributed to various periodi- 
cals are no more than preliminary sketches for his exhaus- 
tive work, soon to be published, on State Socialism in 
Victoria. His aim has been to offer a realistic analysis 
of the actual working of State socialism, and he has con- 
fined his attention to Victoria because it is politically the 
most conservative of the States (it has had only two 
short experiences of a Labour Government), and there- 
fore might reasonably be expected to have avoided the 
errors for which conservatives are always willing to 
upbraid social democracy. Let us consider some Vic- 
torian examples. 

Victoria is more favoured in the matter of water-supply 
than any other of the mainland States ; but even in Vic- 
toria successful settlement depends largely upon the use 
made of the water which is available. There is plenty of 
water, but much of it runs gaily away in fast streams or 
else sullenly stagnates in swamps ; in one district water 
conservation is necessary ; in another district, drainage ; 
in another district, irrigation. But the problem of water- 
supply should not be attacked piecemeal, district by dis- 
trict. At the very least the unity of each river system 

State Socialism 


should be respected. Moreover, Victoria’s experiences in 
the last two decades of the nineteenth century proved 
that no body less powerful than the State could secure 
a reasonable return for the huge expense incurred in 
storing and circulating water ; for no body other than 
the State could impose charges on landowners propor- 
tionate to the amount of water which was made avail- 
able to them, irrespective of whether they chose to use 
it or not. Therefore, by an Act of 1905, the Victorian 
Parliament, after sweeping away the old common law 
rights over water and laying down the principle that all 
water was the property of the Crown, established the 
State Rivers and Water Supply Board to administer this 
property. Mr. Eggleston gives a fascinating account of 
the achievements of this Board, and his narrative sug- 
gests vividly what pioneering means in the twentieth 
century. The organisation established by the Act of 1905 
was — except in one essential particular — a strong one. 
The three commissioners who direct the enterprise are 
nominated for life, and can only be removed by addresses 
from both the Houses of Parliament ; they control their 
own staff, for it is not subject to the public service acts, 
and they are generally free from political interference 
with their executive work. Mr. Eggleston, while admit- 
ting that only the technical expert is competent to judge 
the commission’s technical work, is nevertheless per- 
suaded that this work is of high quality, and declares 
that the commission is popular, despite the “ignorant 
and uncritical booming and ignorant and malevolent 
abuse ’ ’ which it has received from time to time from a 
capricious Press. “Water-supply is a silent service” ; 
there could be no higher praise than this. The weak 
point of the organisation is its complete lack of financial 
responsibility. Its finances are merged in the consoli- 



dated revenue fund of the State. It is not allowed to 
raise its own loans, and it is not expected — it is not 
permitted — to meet its own obligations. The charges 
which the commission imposes do not suffice to cover the 
cost of the services it renders, and the deficiency — an 
increasing deficiency — is made up by the taxpayer. 
Thus, even this most impressive State enterprise 
illustrates the besetting weakness of Australian State 
socialism. In the last resort Parliament must be respon- 
sible ; no ingenuity can avoid this necessity. Moreover, 
Parliament’s responsibility has this definite economic 
advantage that the State can borrow money at cheaper 
rates than can any instrument of the State. But from 
this dependence upon Parliament there results an 
economic disadvantage — the confusion of politics and 
business. Just as the manufacturer thinks he has a right 
to "fair ’’ protection, just as the labourer claims a right 
to a “fair" wage and the farmer to a “fair” price, so 
the settler on an irrigation block asserts his right to a 
“fair ” (that is, an uneconomic) water rate. Yet (unless 
we are to accuse Mr. Eggleston of optimism) these Vic- 
torian settlers are less cynical in their appeal to justice 
than are some of their neighbours, who, having offered 
to pay an economic rate in order to get the water, will 
agitate for a “fair " rate as soon as public capital has 
been invested to bring the water to them. But perhaps 
the Australians have invented an improved rule of 
socialism? Perhaps the new practice of “service below 
cost price” has made the old ideal of “service at cost 
price” absurdly antediluvian? 

Let us consider the railways, for upon them rests the 
economic structure of each one of the States. In 1927- 
28 nearly one-half of the existing public debt of the 
States had been incurred on their behalf. In that year 

State Socialism 


the deficits to which all the Australian railways con- 
fessed amounted to about £5,500,000. Yet in the three 
years prior to the war the railways had (at least in 
appearance) paid their way ; they had even contributed 
to the various treasuries an aid of about £800,000. The 
difficulties of railways in post-war years, and particularly 
the difficulty of competing with road transport, are 
notorious all the world over. There are in addition 
peculiar conditions of economic geography with which 
the Australian railways have to struggle : railway miles 
per 1,000 of population are, for Great Britain, only 
•46 ; for the United States, 2-23 ; for New Zealand, 
2 -45 ; but for Australia they are 4-65. We must make 
generous allowance for these facts. They do not, how- 
ever, suffice to explain the extraordinary railways crisis 
which Australia has had to face in recent years. For 
the three years ending 1924-25 the annual average loss 
of Australian railways was about £1,000,000. For the 
three years ending 1927-28 the average loss was more 
than £3,000,000 per annum, and each year it was rising 
steeply. Whereas before the war proportionately smaller 
increases of capital brought proportionately larger 
increases of income, after the war proportionately larger 
additions to capital produced proportionately smaller 
additions to income. Yet the Australians continued to 
make large additions to capital. Obviously, the new ideal 
of service below cost has found enthusiastic converts. 
It is worth while to examine rather closely the practical 
application of this ideal and its results in Victoria. 

From the strictly technical and administrative point 
of view the Victorian railways are extremely efficient. 
The railways commissioners enjoy a seven years’ tenure ; 
they are fairly free from Ministerial caprice ; and — 
despite the fact that the rights of different sections of 



their employes are safeguarded by a medley of different 
authorities, by a special tribunal, by a Railways Classi- 
fication Board, by the Federal Arbitration Court, by an 
assortment of Craft Wages Boards — the commissioners 
maintain reasonable control over their staff, and find 
ways and means of rewarding capacity. However, the 
consent of the Governor in Council is required for the 
creation of new offices, for alterations of salaries over 
£500, for the purchases of goods abroad, for contracts 
to be performed in one year involving more than £5,000, 
for Sunday trains, for the alterations of freights and 
fares. The commissioners have no authority to decide 
what new lines are to be built (that power belongs to 
Parliament, advised by a standing committee on rail- 
ways) and no concern with the building of them. In com- 
pensation, they have no responsibility for their losses 
when they do not pay. They have, in fact, no real 
responsibility for losses of any kind. Being denied con- 
trol over railway charges, they are compelled to incur 
losses. Railway finances are merged in the State’s 
finances, and railway deficits are a large item in State 
deficits. Between 1914-15 and 1926-27 the Victorian 
railways showed a surplus in three years only. Within 
this period their annual working expenses rose from 
£4,261,903 to £10,518,277, and their annual interest 
charges from £1,767,807 to £3,287,277. The accumu- 
lated deficits of those thirteen years amounted to 
£4,593,366. These figures, which make a Victorian 
shudder, might perhaps cause a Queenslander to smile. 
But danger does not lie merely in the accumulated 
burden of losses. It is the accelerated rate of accumula- 
tion which is serious, and the apparent inability of any 
authority to apply a brake. 

The great majority of electors have come to believe 

State Socialism 

l S5 

that it would be ridiculous and reactionary to make the 
railways pay their way. It is not that they do not abuse 
the railways for incurring deficits. But they would resent 
the taking of resolute measures to wipe out these deficits. 
They expect a public utility to be useful to their individual 
and particular interests. Therefore they must be able to 
push it this way and that by their individual and par- 
ticular pressures. And this is what they expect their 
politicians to do for them. When their politicians do it, 
and the financial results begin to be apparent, they abuse 
the politicians for being inefficient, or say that politics is 
a dirty business, or ask solemnly (if they belong to the 
class which attends Extension Lectures) why University 
men do not go into politics ? Mr. Eggleston illustrates 
the fierce individualistic attack upon the common interest 
of railway efficiency by telling the story of a potato battle 
in Victoria. It is to the interest of the community as 
a whole that the railways should use large trucks ; it is 
to the immediate interest of the potato grower (it may 
not be to his interest in the long run) that they should 
use small trucks. So a politician is thrust forward by 
his constituents to wreck the iniquitous large truck policy 
of the commissioners. And other politicians are thrust 
forward to insist that the commissioners buy goods made 
in Australia, even in Victoria, although it may be cheaper 
to buy elsewhere. And other politicians demand, in the 
sacred name of decentralisation, that work which can 
be done cheaply in Melbourne shall nevertheless be done 
expensively in some country town. And other politicians 
demand, in the name of the right to work, that the rail- 
ways should employ more men than they have proper 
use for. . . . So, then, the railways become an instru- 
ment for subsidising “development,” for promoting 
decentralisation, for protecting local industry, for 



cherishing Naboth, for inaugurating the new social order. 
But this is confusion. The railways are not really an 
effective instrument for these assorted purposes. All 
these miscellaneous demands upon their good nature 
make it more difficult for them to fulfil their own 
essential purpose, which is to provide adequate transport 
for goods and passengers at the lowest possible cost. 
The confusion of aims imposed upon them accelerates 
the rise of cost. And the rise of cost brings them into 
contact with another and more general interest — that of 
the taxpayer. The politicians, who have taken orders 
from their constituents, have been afraid to tell the 
country what it has cost to carry out these orders. The 
acknowledged deficits do not tell the whole story of rail- 
way losses. Since the deficits must be met out of 
taxation, and since the community hates and rejects 
politicians who pile on taxes, the deficits have been made 
to appear smaller than they really are. The railways 
commissioners have been forbidden to provide for de- 
preciation and obsolescence, Or to establish a reserve 
fund, which is particularly necessary in a country where 
the railway revenues shrink sensationally in bad seasons, 
and in an age where railways have to adapt themselves 
to struggle with, or to adopt, new methods of transport. 
Yet depreciation does in fact take place, and equipment 
does in fact become obsolete, whether this is acknow- 
ledged in the ledger or whether it is not. If the bill is 
not met from year to year, some day it will be presented 
in a lump sum. Victoria might take notice that between 
1923 and 1928 the neighbouring State of South 
Australia spent £11,444,192 of loan money on the 
rehabilitation of her railways, and, within the same period, 
sustained a loss of £1,500,000 upon them. “If the 
railways could be made to pay working expenses and 

State Socialism 


interest on their capital debt, ’ ’ reported (not altogether 
relevantly) the commission which investigated South 
Australia’s disabilities under federation, “the financial 
problem of the State as it exists at present would be 

Mr. Eggleston says that the Victorians are destroying 
their State socialism by political sabotage. Mr. F. A. 
Bland, who has an impressive knowledge of the methods 
of administration in New South Wales and throughout 
the Commonwealth, says that the conflict between 
politics and administration is continuous and disastrous 
(The Economic Record, May, 1929). Two railway 
experts who were imported to investigate the New South 
Wales system in 1924 recommended that “the railway 
finance should be taken out of the control of the Treasury 
and vested in the commissioners, who would be respon- 
sible for their own loans, reserves, rates and charges, 
and general administration. ’ ’ But is this really possible ? 
It is hard to see how Parliament, which in the last resort 
must tax the people to make good the railways losses, 
can completely surrender its financial control. It might 
perhaps be possible, by comparing the experience and 
experiments of other countries with those of Australia, 
to discover a just mean between the two principles of 
popular control and business efficiency. The Australians, 
certainly, have dangerously exalted the first at the 
expense of the second. Professor Splawn’s study of 
Government Ownership and Operation of the Railroads 
(Macmillan, 1929) makes it clear that every country 
which has entrusted railways to its Government (Great 
Britain and the United States are the only two countries 
where the entire railway system is in private hands) has 
either been compelled to give a large measure of 
independence to the management, or, like Australia, has 



suffered through refusing to admit this necessity. Yet 
how hard it is for a democracy to seek salvation through 
renunciation, and to pray (like any penitent despotism), 
“Lead us not into temptation ” ! 

Since the State spreads its network of railways and 
water-channels to encourage production from the land, 
it has been tempted to go one step further, to assure 
itself that there will be this production, by buying the 
land, cutting it up, and settling the producers upon it. It 
would be profitable, if we had the time, to consider the 
schemes of closer settlement and soldier settlement on 
which Victoria has spent £34,000,000 — a sum which is 
equal to about one-quarter of her public debt. But we 
must content ourselves with noticing some of the results. 
Mr. Eggleston estimates that the annual financial drift 
in soldier settlement alone is £600,000, and that the 
total loss will be not less than £8,000,000. At the same 
time, there has arisen a curious personal relationship 
between the settler and the State. The Government 
“habitually has more money in the farm than has the 
settler,” with the result that the latter frequently be- 
comes its “veritable child” — very frequently a dis- 
contented child ; for the Government has told him what 
his land will grow, has fixed the size of his farm and the 
payments which he must make for it — and surely all this 
amounts to a kind of pledge that he will be able to meet 
his debts and make a living ? Therefore the settler who 
is failing or who fears failure is tempted to raise the cry 
that he has been deceived. Very frequently he has been 
deceived. But the chances are that, the more he is him- 
self to blame (and many of the schemes have appeared 
to be so generous that they have attracted men with no 
real enthusiasm or aptitude for farming), the more loudly 
will he blame the Government. The Government is only 

State Socialism 


£00 conscious that it has made mistakes, and has not 
the courage to be brutal. Nor can it afford to be magni- 
ficently generous. And so these land settlement ventures 
begin to slip down a sticky slope of benevolence and 
bad temper, of wrangling and wangling, into a bog of 
bankruptcy. Still, there is a visible result. If land settle- 
ment schemes have involved the State of Victoria in 
extraordinary losses, they have, at any rate, put on the 
land nearly 15,000 settlers — with their dependents about 
50,000 souls. On the other hand, men are leaving the 
land more quickly than the Government can put them on 
it l There is, of course, no direct relation of cause and 
effect between these two movements of population. It 
may be that Government action has retarded the natural 
drift to the city. Yet we are tempted to inquire whether 
the State might not have achieved as much if it had 
been content, like a judicious conductor, to quicken the 
tempo of the economic harmonies — by taxing, by dis- 
seminating knowledge, by mobilising credit. It has 
chosen rather to be a leading performer in the piece : 
it has settled yeomen on their farms and planted peasants 
on their plots. Its energy has certainly influenced the 
distribution of the country population, but has it had 
any real effect upon its size? It is, surely, facts of 
another class — the progress of agricultural knowledge 
and invention, the growth of population, the demand of 
world markets — which will in the end determine the 
extent and character of country settlement. 

Mr. Eggleston believes that the State should write 
off its land settlement losses and turn the whole con- 
cern over to a bank. The only safe method of financing 
land settlement, he says, is the banking one, which 
involves “the impartial and cold-blooded appraisement 
of risks.’ ’• These conclusions will be lauded by the 

140 Australia 

individualists ; nor is there any reason why they should 
be unwelcome to realistic Socialists. The modern 
individualist justifies his faith by arguing that all free 
initiatives work together for the common good ; the 
modern Socialist declares that social control of individual 
interests is essential in the common interest. But the 
Australian tendency, as we have seen it expressing itself 
in these schemes of closer settlement, is to employ collec- 
tive power to foster interests which are primarily in- 
dividual. "This is my sort of socialism," an Australian 
Prime Minister once said ; but it is not the socialism 
which realistic people advocate nowadays in Europe. It 
is something more primitive. One thinks of Wentworth’s 
description of Australian Governments — ‘ ‘ indulgent 
nursing fathers.” Perhaps it is a fraud to assert that 
there is such a thing as Australian socialism. It would 
be truer to speak of Australian paternalism. 

These Australian experiments should be viewed against 
their own individual historical background — the back- 
ground which has been sketched in the first part of this 
book. Without an understanding of Australian history, 
criticism must be intolerant and harsh. Australia, it is 
true, more than most countries, has need of economic 
criticism ; and yet the danger of this kind of criticism is 
that it should ignore the achievement or allow it to be 
taken for granted, while it concentrates attention upon 
the mistakes. It will be impossible wholly to avoid this 
danger in these chapters. And yet the reader would get 
a one-sided impression of Australia’s political economy if 
he were not made to understand that there are some State 
businesses (especially in New South Wales) which are 
models of efficiency, and if he were not made to feel some 
excitement at the early triumphs of ' ‘ service below cost. ’ ’ 
Many years ago the Western Australian Government 

State Socialism 


brought water across 400 miles of dry country to the 
mining town of Kalgoorlie ; the venture never paid until 
the recent years of wheat expansion, but it transformed 
Western Australia from a derelict colony into a flourishing 
State. In truth, the Governments of Australia have been 
tempted by their own successes. In earlier days their 
economic adventures were frequently a matter of neces- 
sity. But they have continued to embark on these adven- 
tures while the conditions which made them necessary 
(particularly the conditions due to great distances) were 
disappearing. The action of the State has been carried 
forward by its own momentum, and many of its most 
daring experiments date from the twentieth century. Its 
most unfortunate experiments have occurred since the 

It would be unjust not to make allowance for the 
material loss, the disorganisation, and the change in 
money values which, during the war and since its con- 
clusion, have tested the wisdom of the Australians as they 
have tested the wisdom of other peoples. It would, for 
example, be not altogether unfair to separate soldier 
settlement from closer settlement, and to consider the 
former as part of the cost of the war — the payment of a 
war debt. But a people may show itself prudent or im- 
prudent even in the paying of its debts. Nations cannot 
always expect fair weather ; the strength or weakness of 
their policies is proved in times of difficulty. 

Australian Governments, although they represent the 
collective wisdom of well-educated communities, have 
given evidence, in their economic ventures, of two par- 
ticular weaknesses. The first is administrative. Since the 
State has insisted on tackling the most formidable of 
Australia’s problems, one would have imagined that it 
would have eagerly sought after the most promising 



Australian brains. Since its activities have been so exten- 
sively economic, one would have expected it to search 
for administrators capable of unravelling economic causes 
and imagining economic effects. But the Australians have 
always assumed that economic problems are simple, and 
have resented those classifications and rewards which 
suggest that some men have a higher class of intelligence 
than that of the majority. Demo cratic sentiment applauds 
the sound argument that every office boy should have a 
chance to become a manager, and perverts it into a prac- 
tical rule that no one shall become a manager who has not 
been an office boy. Australian Governments insist gener- 
ally upon the rule that everybody must enter the public 
service at the age of sixteen or thereabouts. At the same 
time, by means of an excellent system of scholarships, 
they cunningly entice the cleverest boys to the Universi- 
ties. When they have been enticed thither, these boys 
discover (unless they have entered upon a strictly technical 
training) that there is nothing for them to do except teach. 
So they return to school and encourage other clever boys 
to win scholarships. In this way the State has most in- 
geniously contrived that its system of democratic educa- 
tion shall not embarrass the public services by introducing 
into them resplendent talents. There has, it is true, been 
considerable reform in recent years. Merit is gaining 
rapidly upon mere seniority. Yet it would be very easy to 
prove that the lack of trained economic forethought is 
responsible for some of the most costly failures of State 
enterprise in Australia. 

The second weakness is more deep-seated. The failures 
of State paternalism have been due less frequently to the 
miscalculations of administrators than to the pressures put 
upon the administrators by the politicians, and upon the 
politicians by their constituents. We saw what kind of 

State Socialism 


pressures these were when we considered the administra- 
tion of the railways and of closer settlement. Australian 
democracy has deliberately resolved that it will have no 
over-mighty subjects. But, in its fear and hatred of the 
strong, it has bared its walls to the destructive vandalism 
of the weak. Swarms of petty appetites attack the great 
common services for which the Government has made 
itself responsible. A multitude of fragmented interests 
assail the common interest. Defence is difficult, because 
there is no exact measure of financial failure : a host of 
scattered insolvencies can be hidden in the general sol- 
vency of the State. And who would have the courage to 
be close-fisted if he knew that the lash of bankruptcy 
could never fall across his shoulders ? Since the railways 
are under no necessity to square their ledger, they become 
an instrument in the hands of politicians for squaring the 
electors. Under this system there is no promptitude in 
cutting losses, and no flexibility of readjustment after the 
losses have been incurred. This rigidity may be present 
in industries which are not Government owned. But a 
Government is particularly slow to confess that it has got 
into a bad business, for its mere entry into it has created 
vested interests which express themselves immediately in 
politics, and if it attempts to retrace its steps it is certain 
to arouse a fierce political agitation. So, very frequently, 
it throws good money after bad and hopes that something 
will turn up. In this way losses accumulate in a lump, and 
the crisis, when it comes, is likely to be prolonged and 
severe. The wretched Government has so many scraggy 
chickens, and when they come home to roost they all 
seem to come at the same time. 

It is not the purpose of this chapter to preach any 
gospel of salvation. But it may be worth while to mention 
two contrasted suggestions for reform. The first sugges- 

144 Australia 

tion, which may be called the remedy of realistic socialism, 
comes from Mr. F. A. Bland. He seeks to reconcile the 
two aims of business efficiency and public control by 
means of representative boards. The great public utilities, 
he argues, cannot be efficient unless they enjoy financial 
autonomy, but “only when the authority is representa- 
tive can we delegate financial autonomy with complete 
confidence.” Mr. Bland therefore suggests that the 
great interests which are most closely affected by each 
State enterprise should appoint the autonomous commis- 
sion which manages the enterprise. ... It might, how- 
ever, be difficult to decide what interests are most 
closely affected.” Moreover, it must be confessed that 
Australia’s experience of representative boards has not 
been altogether encouraging. Nevertheless, the sugges- 
tion is attractive in its wide sweep ; it is the vision of a 
social democracy ‘ 1 as realistic and flexible as the forces 
which it has to control ” ; of a disciplined State socialism, 
no longer attempting to direct intricate social processes 
from one centre, no longer a disintegrating but an in- 
tegrating force in the community’s life. 

Mr. Eggleston’s remedy is a realistic individualism. 
So long as State businesses are the property of the whole 
people, the representatives of the people — so Mr. Eggle- 
ston argues— cannot divest themselves of all responsibility. 
The owners of the property must have a guarantee that 
their property will be administered in their interest. Par- 
liament, being ultimately responsible, must retain an ulti- 
mate right of interference. But Australian experience 
seems to prove the impossibility of setting effective limits 
to this right. So long as it remains politics will be blurred 
with business, and the great public utilities will be at the 
mercy of political bashi-bazouks. The strain upon citizen- 
ship is too severe. Mr. Eggleston sees no hope of salva- 

State Socialism 


tion except in a self-denying ordinance whereby the State 
will divest itself of its great possessions. Let it leave the 
ownership and management of them to others, and con- 
tent itself with its ancient function of guardianship and 
oversight in the common weal. 

We cannot presume to give a summary verdict in favour 
of one or other of these contrasted programmes. This is 
not a matter to be disposed of by amateurs in a few para- 
graphs. But let us straighten out the Australian confusion 
of ends and means. Sensible people say that a State 
should give up running businesses if it will not run them 
on business principles. Australian democracy has been 
taught to answer : “But our State stands for something 
higher than business principles. It stands for ethical 
principles.” Herein lies the confusion. The end of the 
State is ethical — let us say “the good life ” ; the end of 
the railways is economic— let us say “ efficient service at 
cost price. ’ ’ The economic end of the railways is a means 
to the ethical end of the State. If this distinction is 
blurred, the railways become the prey of selfish interests 
snatching for advantages in the name of Justice ; and the 
State, perpetually vexed and tormented with problems of 
mere living, is not free to take thought of the good life. 

_ Mr. Micawber might have expressed this truth more 




i. Empire Settlement 

Oratory is dying ; a calculating age has stabbed it to the 
heart with innumerable dagger-thrusts of statistics. Yet, 
at a vision of the vast open spaces of the Empire, this 
stricken oratory stirs and stands, and prophesies, exhorts, 
denounces. Mankind loves oratory, and does not love 
statistics. But “the statistics prove” (they are assassins) 
that the generous simplicities of Imperial oratory are 
irrelevant to the complex task of filling the Empire’s vast 
open spaces. All talk of Empire Settlement in Australia 
is meaningless unless at the outset it does justice to the 
following statistical facts. 

1 . The rate of increase of the Australian population has 
been, over a long period, higher than that of any other 
country in the world, with the exception of New Zealand. 
Assuming that it is a good thing for new countries to 
increase their population rapidly, does not Australia com- 
pare very favourably with Canada ? Whereas, between 
1881 and 1921, Canada gained on the average 18 persons 
a year for every 1,000 of her population, Australia, within 
the same period, gained 22 a year for every 1 ,000 of hers. 
During these four decades the Australian population 
increased 141-56 per cent., the Canadian 103-21 per 

2. The natural increase of Australia and New Zealand, 
owing to the low death-rate, is the highest in the world. 
Over a period of fifty-four years, starting from i860, 



Filling the Vast Open Spaces 

>j 6 per cent, of the growth of Australia’s population was 
due to natural increase, and 24 per cent, was due to im- 
migration. It seems reasonable to suppose that (other 
things being equal) a country with a high rate of natural 
increase has less room for immigrants than a country with 
a low rate of natural increase. 

3. There have been in the past, and there will he in 
the future, fluctuations in the figures of net immigration. 
For example, during the three decades between i860 and 
1890 the annual growth of population by immigration was 
i£ per cent. ; but in the two following decades Australia 
absorbed on the yearly average only one immigrant for 
every 1,000 of her population. Between 1901 and 1905 
departures from Australia exceeded arrivals by 16,793 ; 
but at the close of the first decade of the twentieth cen- 
tury the tide of immigration had begun once again to run 
strongly. This pre-war acceleration may be illustrated 
from the figures of assisted immigration. In 1904 
Australian Governments assisted 372 settlers ; in 1909 
they assisted 9,820; in 1912 they assisted 16,712. 

The briefest glance at Australia’s history is sufficient 
to lift the problem of settlement above ephemeral enthu- 
siasms, disappointments, and controversies. Australia 
has been compared to a boa-constrictor, for it has been 
her habit to bolt great meals of immigrants and then rest 
until she has digested them. She has not done this of 
deliberate purpose. The action of Governments has had 
some part in causing fluctuations in the rate of immigra- 
tion ; but, generally speaking, Governments have adapted 
themselves to conditions over which they have had little 
conscious control. Despite a curiously prevalent opinion 
to the contrary, they have been more frequently dis- 
tressed by their inability to increase the flow of new 
settlers than by domestic clamours bidding them to restrict 



the flow. Their difficulties are well illustrated by the ex- 
perience of the ten years following the war, during which 
increased applications of political enthusiasm and govern- 
mental activity issued at last in diminishing returns from 

The “demand for quick government,” which is one 
of the peculiarities of modern times, became insistent 
after the war, for in time of war individuals are power- 
less ; Governments seem all-powerful. If Governments 
had sent and summoned from across the seas hundreds 
of thousands of men for the work of ruin in an old land, 
surely they might move as many for the work of building 
in new continents, for the settling of “millions of square 
miles of the richest lands of the earth ' ’ ? During the 
war a scattered confederacy had known itself as a living 
Commonwealth and England as its heart. The idea grew, 
after the war, that the heart was congested with blood 
whose function it was to nourish lusty members. “The 
redistribution of the white population of the Empire in a 
manner most conducive to the development, strength, 
and stability of the whole ’ ’ — here is a conception of the 
Empire as a single living organism. But, in strict fact, 
the British Commonwealth of Nations is nothing more 
than a co-operative confederacy. Its war-time unifica- 
tion ended with the war-time emergency ; when peace 
came its scattered members were emphatic in asserting 
before the world that they had come of age as individual 
nations. Nevertheless, provided that they worked with 
England in equal partnership, the Dominions were 
anxious to admit and to satisfy the common need for a 
better distribution of the white population of the Empire. 
Australia, certainly, gladly seconded England’s efforts, 
and established a formidable organisation. 

In this organisation the States co-operate with the 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 149 

Commonwealth, just as the Commonwealth co-operates 
with Great Britain. The British Government does not 
deal directly with the six State Governments of Australia, 
but only with the Commonwealth Government, which in 
1920 took over from the States the responsibility of 
recruiting immigrants and shipping them to Australia. 
The general terms of British co-operation are laid down 
by the Empire Settlement Act of 1922, which authorises 
the British Government to contribute by grant or loan 
towards the cost of transporting and settling migrants ; 
its contributions are limited to one-half of the expenditure 
incurred and to a period of fifteen years. The British 
Government has used the powers granted to it by this 
Act in two ways. First, it has borne with the Common- 
wealth Government an equal share in the cost of assisted 
passages for migrants — a cost which varies according 
to the class and age of the migrant who is assisted. 
Secondly, it has contributed towards the cost of “agreed 
schemes” of land settlement. The methods of this co- 
operation may best be illustrated by the £34,000,000 
Agreement of *925. This Agreement provides for 
joint Commonwealth and British subsidies towards the 
cost of loans issued by the Commonwealth on behalf 
of any State. Assuming that the whole amount of 
£34,000,000 were issued, the joint subsidies would 
amount to approximately £12,500,000. A State re- 
ceiving money under the Agreement pays interest, 
for the first five years, at the rate of 1 per cent, 
per annum ; for the following five years it pays at one- 
third of the rate paid by the Commonwealth ; thereafter 
it will pay at the same rate as the Commonwealth. It 
goes almost without saying that no State may profit 
from the generosity of the contributing Governments 
until these Governments have approved of its plans for 

i go Australia 

spending the money. If it proposes to spend the money 
on developmental works designed to increase its general 
capacity to absorb population, it must pledge itself to 
absorb one immigrant for every £75 which it receives. 
If it proposes to invest the money in a specific scheme of 
land settlement, it pledges itself to settle on the land one 
British family (of four persons) for every £1,500 which 
it receives. This latter obligation represents a modifica- 
tion of the original optimistic estimate of £1,000 as the 
cost of settling a family of five persons. 

Australia has laboured to make this partnership a 
success. In May, 1926, the Australian Prime Minister 
announced his intention of creating a special commission 
to handle the problems of development and migration. 
“These two problems,” he declared, “are linked 
together inseparably. IWe cannot develop unless we have 
more population, and we cannot absorb more migrants 
unless we develop.” The Development and Migra- 
tion Commission was designed to take charge of the 
machinery of migration, and to advise the Common- 
wealth Government whether or not it should approve of 
the schemes submitted to it, under the £34,000000 
Agreement, by the State Governments. It was also 
expected to serve as a “national clearing-house for all 
ideas and schemes bearing upon economic develop- 
ment,” in order to “ensure the best utilisation of our 
resources and the most rapid and effective way of dealing 
with them.” In origin, therefore, it was an institution 
designed to satisfy the demand for quick government in 
the matter of migration. 

Governments have done their utmost to pump popula- 
tion into the vast open spaces of Australia. If the flow 
of population has dwindled, it is not through lack of 
administrative machinery, or of a resolute intention to 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 151 

make the machinery work. It was their consciousness of 
virtuous endeavour which, in 1928, encouraged the Aus- 
tralians to repudiate with scandalised indignation the 
insinuations against their goodwill which appeared in the 
report of Great Britain’s Industrial Transference Board, 
or, to be just, which appeared in the journalistic roaring 
(both clerical and lay) with which the report was 

England seemed to be complaining that miners who 
saw their only salvation in migration were 1 ' confronted 
with a stone wall in Canada and barbed-wire entangle- 
ments in Australia.” That was unjust. It seemed that 
the Dominions were accused of showing an unnatural 
preference for immigrants of foreign blood. That was 
monstrously untrue. At this very time the sentiment of 
racial exclusiveness was elaborating a new interpretation 
of White Australia, according to which all the peoples 
of Southern Europe were “ a semi-coloured race.” News- 
paper demagogues were preaching this original doctrine 
under headlines so offensive and so crude that it would 
be indecent and injudicious to quote them. Now all 
this fury was aroused by an immigration of Italians 
which, when it reached its highest level, was just a frac- 
tion larger than one-twelfth of the volume of British 
immigration. (In 1927, 7,784 Italians and 93,352 
British arrived in Australia ; the net immigration of that 
year was 48,924.) But this did not prevent an ex-Prime 
Minister of Australia from attacking at a party congress 
the pusillanimity of the Government to which he gave 
his erratic support, and demanding whether Australia 
belonged to the Australians or to Signor Mussolini ! In 
fact, the Australian Government had already entered 
into negotiations with Signor Mussolini (who a£ the time 
was exerting himself to keep would-be emigrants at 


home), with the result that for 1928 the quota of Italian 
arrivals was fixed at 3,000. Similar arrangements were 
made with the Governments of other States of Southern 
Europe. And, in reserve, the Commonwealth held a 
formidable legislative weapon, the Immigration Act of 
1925. This Act enabled the Governor-General to prohibit 
by proclamation the entry of aliens ‘ ‘ of any specified 
nationality, race, class, or occupation ” if he should deem 
it desirable to do so because of the economic conditions 
prevailing in the Commonwealth, or because, in his 
opinion, the persons specified were “unsuitable for 
admission into the Commonwealth ” or “ unlikely to 
become readily assimilated or to assume the duties and 
responsibilities of Australian citizenship within a reason- 
able space of time.’’ It is true that there has not yet 
been any need for the Commonwealth Government to 
use these extraordinary powers, but popular opinion 
would force it to use them if there were any real 
danger of Australia’s “ninety-eight per cent. British” 
nationality becoming diluted. There is, it is true, a 
small minority of Australians which does not contem- 
plate with Nordic glee these elaborate precautions against 
Mediterranean penetration. They believe that the Italians 
can do valuable work in Australia (particularly in tropical 
Australia), and perhaps some of them would welcome a 
few Latin plums in the solid lump of Anglo-Saxon dough. 
But this, it is to be feared, is a blot on their Australian 
patriotism. When a lecturer uses the phrase “ninety- 
eight per cent. British,” intending to admonish, the 
audience, to his dismay, begins to cheer. 

It will be admitted that the Australians had cause to 
resent the insinuation that they cherished foreigners 
more than their own kith and kin. But there are other 
sections of the report of the Industrial Transference 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 153 

Board, referring to British migration to Australia, which 
demand a more careful examination. The results achieved 
by much oratory and organisation have indeed been dis- 
appointing. In the three best consecutive pre-war years 
(1911-13), when Australia was spending borrowed 
money at the rate of about £20,000,000 a year, the 
increase of population by net immigration was 207,816. 
In the three best post-war years (1925-27), when 
Australia was spending borrowed money at the rate of 
about £40,000,000 a year, the increase of population 
by net immigration was only 128,501, or 61 per cent, 
of the former figure. In 1928 the net immigration was 
only 27,352. In the early months of 1929 there was 
actually an excess of departures over arrivals ; before the 
year ended the Australian Government had suspended 
assisted immigration altogether. The Industrial Trans- 
ference Board had prepared and published its report long 
before the great effort had ended in this dismal collapse, 
but even by 1927 the failure of post-war hopes was 
already apparent. The report quite correctly placed upon 
the shoulders of the State Governments a considerable 
burden of immediate responsibility for this failure. 
Assisted passages fall into two groups — "nominations ” 
and "requisitions." Any responsible citizen in Aus- 
tralia may ‘ ' nominate ’ ’ a candidate for an assisted pas- 
sage, on condition that he undertakes responsibility 
for him when he arrives. There are no restrictions con- 
cerning the occupation of a "nominee." "Requisi- 
tions," on the other hand, are made by the State Govern- 
ments, and are generally limited to workers on the land 
and to domestic servants. The Industrial Transference 
Board pointed out that, while nominations had been 
increasing, requisitions had been diminishing. 

154 Australia 

Nominations . 


T otal. 

1923 ... 

... 9,560 

1 5.497 

2 5,o57 

1924 ... 

... 12,062 




■ i3> ; 831 




... 25,103 




... 23,272 



It must be admitted that the shrinking figures for 
requisitions indicate a sorry conclusion to the intense 
propaganda which the Commonwealth has undertaken 
in England on behalf of the States. Englishmen who 
have been cramped for room and opportunities at home 
are encouraged to think that there is room and hope for 
them in Australia ; they have been told that they will be 
assisted to travel thither, not out of charity, but because 
they are needed ; and when at last they apply for this 
assistance, they are only too likely to find that they are 
not wanted. The Australians may well consider whether 
the system they have adopted may not in the end be 
damaging to themselves as well as unjust to the victims 
of their capriciousness. But their capriciousness of con- 
duct is not (as the Industrial Transference Board ap- 
peared to think) a capriciousness of intention. It is true 
that Australian opinion on immigration is divided ; that 
the moneyed classes have on the whole an ill-reasoned 
enthusiasm for it, and that the labouring classes tend to 
view it with an ill-reasoned suspicion. It is true that a 
newly established Labour Government suspended assisted 
migration in November, 1929. Yet it has happened 
more than once that immigration has flowed most freely 
into Australia when Labour Governments have held 
power in the Commonwealth, or in a majority of the 
States, or in both. Fluctuations in the rate of immigra- 
tion have very little to do with fluctuations in the for- 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 155 

tunes of Australia’s political parties. The waxing and 
waning of propaganda for or against immigration has 
little effect upon its flow, but is a product of causes 
which have already begun to influence that flow. It is 
these causes which we must seek. 

2. Men, Money, and Markets 

“The greatest problem of the Empire,” said Mr. 
Bruce at the Imperial Conference of 1926, “is one that 
I put into three words — men, money, and markets.” 
The idea behind the phrase is sound enough so far as it 
goes ; it is, indeed, surprisingly easy to enunciate correct 
ideas. Difficulties arise (as the Wakefield colonisers dis- 
covered a century ago and we are discovering now) 
when the time comes to work out the implications of 
these ideas and express them in practical policies. When 
Mr. Bruce spoke of markets, he seems to have been 
thinking particularly of protected markets. He was 
hoping for English preferences which would compensate 
for the competitive weakness of some branches of Aus- 
tralian production. It is true that Great Britain could, 
if she would, guarantee a safe market for many Australian 
products, and that this guarantee would enable Australia, 
temporarily at least, to absorb more British immigrants. 
But it is not necessarily true that this method of redis- 
tributing the Empire’s white population would be “con- 
ducive to the development, strength, and stability of the 
whole.” Here is a much-debated question of English 
policy on which it would be indiscreet for an Australian 
to express a judgment. So far as Australia is concerned, 
something has already been said, in the chapter on Pro- 
tection, of the widely held and flattering notion that 
every badly planned industry has a right to a “fair” 

156 Australia 

price for its products. There is danger in this word 
‘ ‘ markets ” if it conceals a design to pass on Australian 
costs instead of developing the competitive strength of 
Australian production. 

There is also danger in the word “money.” When 
Mr. Bruce spoke of money he meant borrowed money. 
The programme of development (on which migration is 
said to depend) is also a programme of borrowing. When 
a Government borrows money it shoulders a burden, 
which is apparent in interest charges, and anticipates a 
benefit in the form of an addition to its productive power. 
“Money,” therefore, or “development,” may be ex- 
pected to stimulate migration only if the benefit out- 
weighs the burden. If the burden outweighs the benefit, 
money will not, in the long run, bring men, nor will 
development promote migration. The importance of 
these propositions is sufficient to justify some digression 
into the history of Government borrowing in Australia. 

The first public loan raised by an Australian Govern- 
ment was raised in the forties of last century for the pur- 
pose of promoting immigration to New South Wales. But 
the history of Australia’s public debt really commences 
with self-government and the railway age. By 1871 
Australian Governments had borrowed £30,000,000. 
Between 1871 and 1881 they borrowed £36,000,000. 
In the next decade they borrowed £90,000,000. Then 
followed a slump, for which their borrowing was in some 
measure responsible. At the time of federation the total 
debts of Australian Governments amounted to £203-5 
millions. By 1927 their total debts exceeded £1,000 
millions. It is therefore obvious that the Governments of 
Australia have incurred the greater part of their debt 
within the present century. The burden of debt per head 
of the population was £53 13s. ud. in June of 1901, 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 157 

and £169 4s. 8d. in June of 1927. If we make allowance 
for the changes in the price level, this amounts to an in- 
crease of about 70 per cent. The interest payments 
which the Governments had to meet were £8,000,000 
in 1901 and £57,000,000 in 1927. The latter sum is 
equal to about two-thirds of the total receipts from 

It is not necessary to be terrified by these figures. In 
the first place, about £300,000,000 of this debt was war 
debt, and although it lay upon the community as a 
“ dead weight,” Australians did not regret that they had 
incurred it. In the second place, it is necessary to dis- 
tinguish between internal and external debt. A loan raised 
internally does not increase the purchasing power of the 
community, but merely transfers purchasing power from 
the citizens to the Government. A loan raised externally 
adds immediately to the purchasing power of the com- 
munity. Conversely, the payment of interest upon an 
internal loan does not diminish the spending power of the 
community ; whereas the payment of interest on an ex- 
ternal loan is a real diminution of the national income. 
Now, whereas in 1901 only 14 per cent, of the public 
debt had been incurred at home, in 1937 half of the exist- 
ing debt had been incurred at home. To put the matter 
in another way : whereas in 1901 the public external debt 
per head of the population was £46, in 1925 it was £79. 
If we make allowance for the fall in the value of money, 
these figures imply a very real diminution in the burden 
of the external debt. Dr. Benham estimates that pay- 
ments of interest abroad amounted in 1901 to 8 per cent, 
of the home-produced income, but in 1935 to only 5 per 
cent, of it. 

However, an examination of the decade which followed 
the war will reveal a less satisfactory position. During 



this decade world prices, after remaining for a time at an 
inflated level, began to fall. If prices are halved, the real 
burden of debt is doubled ; if prices double, the real 
burden of debt is halved. Therefore, when prices are 
high, wise men will repay what they can of their old 
debts, and will be reluctant to incur new debts. Australia 
acted in exactly the opposite manner. The world was in 
effect offering her a generous present ; but so far from 
accepting it, she herself was lavishly generous to 
future rentiers. Between 1918 and 1928 she added 
^378,000,000 to her public debts, of which sum 
^97,000,000 (spent chiefly on repatriation of soldiers) 
may be counted as war debt. Within this period the 
amount of debt per head of the population rose from 
^132 to £174. Within the same period the proportion of 
external to internal debt was again increasing, for in 1921 
about 60 per cent, of the existing debt had been raised 
internally, and within eight years the proportion had 
fallen to 50 per cent. 

It is necessary to inquire whether this rapid addition 
to the burden of public debt has been justified by a 
corresponding addition to the productive power of the 
community. This is equivalent to asking how Australian 
Governments spend money — a question on which some- 
thing has already been said in the previous chapter. 
From a table compiled by Professor R. C. Mills ( Studies 
in Australian Affairs, p. 104) it appears that 45-6 per 
cent, of public borrowings had been spent on railways, 
and that 80 per cent, has been spent on railways and 
tramways, water-supply and sewerage, land and land 
settlement, harbours and rivers, roads and bridges. The 
remaining 20 per cent, has been spent on postal services, 
public buildings, defence, loans to local bodies, irrigation, 
and "other” objects. A community may perhaps re- 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 159 

cover its loan expenditure by a direct return from public 
works ; that is to say, the earnings of these works may 
be sufficient to pay working expenses, interest, deprecia- 
tion, and obsolescence, while maintaining a sinking fund 
for the eventual extinction of the debt. But even if the 
direct return is insufficient to cover these charges, it may 
still be true that the community has borrowed (and spent) 
wisely. There is, for example, no direct return from 
roads and bridges ; but it is not desirable that Australia 
should remain roadless and bridgeless. It may perhaps 
be desirable that she should build more of her roads and 
bridges out of taxation. But the immediate question to 
ask is whether the expenditure of borrowed money on these 
roads and bridges (and on all other works which do not com- 
pletely pay for themselves by a direct return) has justified 
itself by so increasing the national wealth as to com- 
pensate for the increased national debt. This question is 
easier to ask than to answer, for indirect benefits are 
difficult to measure, and Australian Governments have 
taken few pains to inform themselves and their subjects 
as to the precise extent of the direct losses on State enter- 
prises. Sometimes they seem to have taken pains to 
conceal these losses. A valiant attempt to achieve pre- 
cision has nevertheless been made by Professor Mills, 
who concludes that the gap between interest charges 
and net revenue from works constructed out of loan is 
“not great enough for serious alarm.” Professor Mills 
takes comfort from the fact that, since the war, external 
interest charges have maintained a fairly steady relation 
(fluctuating around 5 per cent, and approaching 6 per 
cent.) to the value of recorded production. But this does 
not prove that the indirect returns which have accrued 
from loan expenditure are a compensation for the direct 
losses. It is possible that the value of recorded produc- 

160 Australia 

tion might have been higher had there been less loan 

The results of post-war borrowing need not yet cause 
serious alarm, but they have already caused serious 
annoyance and serious embarrassment. In 1921-22 it 
was necessary to raise from taxation ^5-7 millions of the 
£20-8 millions of interest due from the States ; in 1926-27 
the interest charge was ,£31-3 millions, and the amount 
paid out of taxation was £9 7 millions. Thus within five 
years, whereas the interest due from the States had in- 
creased 50 per cent., the contribution necessary from 
taxpayers had increased 68 per cent. The embarrass- 
ment of a State treasurer may be illustrated by a table 
setting out the growth, year by year, of the interest 
which has to be met out of taxation (the “ dead-weight 
interest ”) in the State of South Australia. 

Year ending June. 

Dead-Weight Interest. 


1923 ... 


1924 ... 


1925 ... 


1926 ... 


1927 ... 

... 1,825,145 

1928 ... 

... 1,503,618 

1929 ... 

... 2,034,913 (including £200,000 

for railway de- 

It has so happened that, during the very years in which 
the dead-weight interest leapt into seven figures, the 
State of South Australia became acutely conscious of the 
variability of seasons and of prices, and became sensitive 
to the costs of protection and the ‘ ' disabilities due to 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces j6i 

federation.”- Informed opinion was ready to welcome the 
report of the British Economic Mission (January, 1929), 
which warned Australia that ^reproductive develop- 
mental expenditure was imposing ‘ ‘ a heavy burden on 
the general community and consequently on the cost of 
living and production.” Among the dubious enterprises 
which the Economic Mission cited was that of the New 
South Wales Murrumbidgee irrigation scheme, into 
which ^9,000, 000 had been sunk in the ten years ending 
June, 1927. Within that same period the accumulated 
deficit of the enterprise was £2-7 millions. It may be 
admitted that the State can afford to wait longer for its 
rewards than can private individuals ; but, said the Mis- 
sion, “when we are told that of the irrigable land made 
available by the Murrumbidgee scheme only about one- 
third is being used for its intended purpose, and that only 
a fraction of the interest allocable to that one-third is 
being received, we cannot avoid the apprehension that a 
very heavy and permanent load is being laid upon the 
community.” This is precisely the criticism which the 
Auditors-General of the various States have been offering 
in their annual reports. They have repeatedly warned the 
Australian Governments that they are not getting their 
money’s worth. And if this warning is true, the assump- 
tion that more money must bring more men breaks down. 
Indeed, a simple mathematical calculation reduces this 
assumption to an absurdity. If both borrowing and 
population continued to increase until 1937 at the rate 
which was maintained between 1922 and 1928, the result 
would be this : that within fifteen years the debts of the 
States would have increased by 100 per cent, and their 
population by only 35 per cent. The Australians would 
then be carrying a burden of debt per head of their 
population for which it is impossible to imagine a com- 

1 62 


pensating benefit. The weight of this burden would in 
itself retard the increase of the population. 

The capacity of Australia to absorb population 
depends in the last resort upon the prosperity of 
Australia. Development, therefore, will stimulate migra- 
tion only if the development is “economic” ; that is 
to say, only if it increases Australia’s prosperity. The 
Economic Mission is clearly of opinion that the ardent 
development of recent years has diminished the country’s 
prosperity. The question is altogether one of degree, and 
the beginning of wisdom is to be found in the maxim 
of the Delphic oracle : Nothing too much. Even before 
the Economic Mission had published its report many of 
the public men of Australia had begun to listen to the 

3. Economic Disciplines 

As early as 1927 it began to be apparent that 
Australia was likely to enter a period of economic depres- 
sion. In that year the banks began to restrict credit. 
This action was forced upon them by a drain of gold from 
the country and by a persistent rise in the ratio of 
advances to deposits. In 1927, Australia was still en- 
joying the benefits of high prices for her staple com- 
modities and of a run of good seasons ; but in the years 
which followed seasons were not so good, and prices 
weakened. Meanwhile, the average rate of interest upon 
debts was rising as pre-war loans fell due and had to be 
converted. The contraction of the national income and 
the increased burden of dead-weight interest were 
reflected, not only in growing deficits, but in something 
new — a Commonwealth deficit. They were also reflected 
in rising figures of unemployment and falling figures of 
immigration. These economic discomforts were in part 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 163 

the product of causes beyond Australia’s control, and 
in part the product of Australian misfortunes or mistakes. 

Economic discomforts tend to produce economic dis- 
ciplines. Some of these may operate automatically — 
for example, through the restriction of the loan market. 
Other disciplines may be consciously sought. From 1927 
onwards it is possible to trace in Australia a growing sus- 
picion of grandiose enterprises and the beginnings of a 
preference for self-denying ordinances. 

The Development and Migration Commission was 
created to satisfy the “ demand for quick government ” ; 
but in its latter years it seemed likely to become a sort 
of revisory chamber standing above rash economic ex- 
perimenters. It is worth while to illustrate this tendency 
by a particular example. In 1928 the State of Victoria 
asked the Commission to approve of its scheme for 
developing, by road and railway building and by the 
establishment of farms, a low rainfall area extending 
twenty miles north and south and seventy miles east and 
west in the marginal Mallee country. The area to be 
developed was also within constituencies held by the 
Country Progressive party, on whose support the Vic- 
torian Government was dependent. The Government, 
without consulting its experts, submitted estimates of the 
advantages to be derived from the scheme. It anticipated 
that the cost would be £300,000. The Commission, since 
it was asked to recommend the issue of loan money under 
the £34,000,000 Agreement, decided to undertake an 
economic survey. It estimated that the probable cost of 
public works associated with the construction of fifty-six 
miles of railway would be £1,000,000 ; that the cost of 
land settlement (575 farms at £2,300 each) would be 
approximately £1,300,000 ; that the cost of miscellaneous 
amenities of civilisation would be £250,000. When it 

164 Australia 

came to examine the advantages of the enterprise, it dis- 
covered that the Victorian Government had miscalculated 
the annual rainfall of the district, had taken no account 
of the variability of rainfall, and had over-estimated, to 
the extent of four bushels or more, the probable yield 
per acre from the farms which it was proposing to estab- 
lish. It reported that the scheme, if persisted in, would 
impose a heavy burden on the general community of the 
State for the purpose of establishing settlers who, ‘ 1 on 
the average, were likely to derive income considerably 
below a living wage. ’ ’ It therefore rejected the Victorian 
application. The Commission’s veto has, of course, been 
limited to schemes for which cheap finance is sought 
under the ^34,000,000 Agreement. Yet it may not be 
altogether extravagant to imagine an institution similar 
to the Commission which will one day perform generally 
the revisory functions granted to the Commission within 
a comparatively narrow field. Such an institution would 
seem to be a natural expression of the financial sov- 
ereignty of the Commonwealth and the new flexible 
federalism. It is possible that even State Governments 
might come to value it as a shield and buckler defending 
them from the importunate mendicancy of their greedy 

In June, 1927, both the Commonwealth and the States 
agreed to set up a new institution of self-discipline, the 
Loan Council. In the opinion of the British Economic 
Mission, the creation of this institution ‘ 1 marks the 
definite end of a condition of affairs when seven different 
Australian Governments, each acting independently, 
entered the loan market with no regard for, and indeed 
to the prejudice of, each other’s interests.” The Loan 
Council does no more than fix the amount which the 
various Governments may borrow in one year ; it has no 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 165 

concern with the merits of loan programmes. The British 
Economic Mission nevertheless believed ‘ £ that the dis- 
cussions which will take place in the Council will conduce 
to prudence in the objects of public borrowings as well 
as to moderation in their amounts.” 

The passing of the Bank Amendment Act of 1927 was 
a sign that the Commonwealth Government was moving 
hesitatingly towards the creation of a third institution of 
economic discipline. A central bank, or central reserve 
bank, may be regarded as "an institution provided 
especially for foul weather,” but its value in fair weather 
also can hardly be exaggerated. The financial needs of 
Australian trade and industry are served by eleven trading 
banks with nearly 3,000 branches scattered throughout 
the Commonwealth, as well as by various kinds of 
specialist institutions — pastoral houses, insurance com- 
panies, building and investment societies, cridit fonder 
banks, etc. The system of branch banking, which may 
perhaps be traced to the Scottish training of Australia’s 
financial pioneers, is very well suited to a country where 
nearly half the population is scattered over an extensive 
hinterland. A peculiarity of Australian practice which is 
rather less orthodox is that the banks are permitted to 
make advances on "broad acres.” This practice may be 
justified by the peculiar circumstances of Australia’s 
economic development, and by the very great skill which 
the banks have developed in handling the business of 
farmers and pastoralists. Although "broad acres” can 
hardly be classed with liquid assets, and the banks are 
in fact investing large sums of money in capital values, 
nevertheless the collapse of the land boom in the early 
nineties of last century taught them a lesson which they 
cannot forget ; memories of the sawve qui pent of 1893 
impose upon them a caution which at times may even be 


1 66 

excessive. The Australian financial system would gain 
both in strength and flexibility from the establishment of 
a central bank which could mobilise the credit reserves of 
the whole banking community and bring them into im- 
mediate action at the point where they were needed. A 
report published by the Development and Migration Com- 
mission on unemployment and business stability concludes 
that the creation of a central bank would be ' 1 the most 
important single measure that can be taken to control 
business fluctuations in Australia.” This step has not 
yet been taken. The Commonwealth Bank, which was 
established by a Labour Government in 19x1 as a chal- 
lenge to ‘‘monopolistic ” private banking, still competes 
with the trading banks for private business. Before it 
could perform the function of a central bank it would 
have to renounce branch banking and the deposits of 
ordinary private persons. Only on these conditions would 
the trading banks be willing to deposit with it their 
reserves. It would also be compelled to renounce advances 
except on securities which are completely liquid — notably 
upon bills of exchange, which represent a steady stream 
of production flowing into consumption. The States 
would have to renounce their high stamp duties, as a 
preliminary to the creation of an Australian bill market. 
But, generally speaking, the transformation of the Com- 
monwealth Bank into a central bank would demand, not 
more legislation, but rather intelligent management cap- 
able of understanding what a central bank should do, and 
of steering the Commonwealth Bank steadily, if gradually, 
upon its new course. It would, of course, be possible to 
reach the desired financial haven by creating an entirely 
new institution of control, leaving to the existing bank 
the competitive business which it pursues at present. 

A central reserve bank, whether it came into existence 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 167 

by a new creation or by the transformation of an existing 
institution, would need to be free from all fear, even a 
remote fear, of party political control. But Australian 
sentiment dislikes any suggestion of financial oligarchy. 
The Labour party has asserted emphatically that Australia 
wants a “people’s bank,’’ not a “bankers’ bank.’’ It 
was a Government opposed to Labour which passed the 
Bank Amendment Act of 1927 and experimented in the 
creation of institutions of economic discipline. This 
Government held power from 1922 to 1929. After it had 
painfully acquired some experience in economic matters, 
it devoted its declining years to the education of the 
electorate. It planned to establish a bureau of economic 
research ; it invited the British Economic Mission to 
report on Australian affairs ; it invited the Australian 
people to read volumes of reports on the Constitution, on 
the disabilities of various States, on North Australia and 
Central Australia, on the tariff. The Australian people 
grew weary of so many commissions ; it grew weary of so 
many professors, all of whom seemed to pretend that the 
task of economic statesmanship was difficult. To people 
in general, and particularly to a party in opposition, 
statesmanship seems easy. The people of the Common- 
wealth turned at last to the Labour party, which had been 
in opposition for thirteen years. One of the first decisions 
which the new Government announced was its intention 
to abolish the Development and Migration Commission 
as an independent body. Yet necessity may force this 
government also to continue the search for economic 

4. Economic Geography : The Tropics 

Perhaps the greatest contributions which Governments 
have made to the peopling of Australia are the cqntriby.- 

1 68 Australia 

tions which they have made to the work of the scientific 
investigators who have from time to time so sensationally 
increased the resources of Australia. The States carry on 
the work of research and education through their Agri- 
cultural Departments, the Commonwealth seeks to stimu- 
late and co-ordinate the work of public and private in- 
vestigators by means of the Council of Scientific and 
Industrial Research, and Great Britain endows similar 
activities through the Empire Marketing Board. An in- 
crease of Australia’s population must be associated with 
an increase of Australian capital ; but this increase 
(whether by internal accumulation or by public or private 
borrowing from abroad) is dependent upon the wealth to 
be won from Australia’s natural resources. It is written 
plainly on every page of Australia’s economic history, 
from the time of Macarthur to the present day, that the 
progressive settlement of the continent depends primarily 
on the progress of its people in mastering the problems of 
its soil and climate. 

The British Economic Mission was impressed by the 
extensive character of Australian settlement. ' ‘ We have 
been much struck,” it reported, ' ‘ by what we have seen 
of the comparatively small degree to which intensive use 
is made of the land already in occupation in Australia. 
Schemes are being projected for extensive development 
by pushing railway and road construction at heavy capital 
cost into territory as yet unsettled, while it would seem 
that more intensive use of land already settled or partially 
settled might, at far less cost, be productive of a greater 
increase in population and in wealth production than the 
extensive schemes are likely to yield.” Dr. Griffith 
Taylor, who has taught the Australians almost everything 
which they know about the geographical controls of settle- 
ment, estimates that 717,000 square miles of the conti- 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 169 

nent are climatically suited for agriculture. Of this area 
the Australians have sown barely more than 7 per cent, 
with crops or grasses. Even allowing for the “patchy ” 
character of much of the country, for rugged mountains 
and poor soils, it is apparent that there must still be room 
within these 717,000 square miles for a greatly increased 
and thriving population. There remain 2,250,000 square 
miles. Dr. Taylor classes 600,000 of them as desert, 
660,000 as “sparse,” and the rest (about 1,000,000 
square miles) as “ pastoral” lands. Here are Australia’s 
vast open spaces. They have been described in Chapter I. 
There is, however, another geographical division of 
the continent which must be considered. Forty per 
cent, of Australia lies within the tropics. Rightly or 
wrongly, the outside world seems inclined to judge the 
Australians by their success or failure in utilising this 
portion of their inheritance. 

It is first of all necessary to inquire whether the 
Australians can flourish and multiply within this portion 
of their inheritance. White men, when they have lived 
within the tropics, have usually been a small minority of 
rulers or plantation owners controlling large native popu- 
lations. Frequently they have introduced among the 
natives new diseases, and in return have caught diseases 
from which the natives have relative immunity. The 
decisive factor in Australia’s tropical colonisation is the 
absence of a well-established native population. This 
makes life in tropical Australia both more arduous and 
more healthy. Half a century ago the world dogmatically 
assumed that the Australian experiment must fail. To-day 
the Australians assume, scarcely less dogmatically, that 
their experiment must succeed. Success or failure will 
only finally be proved by careful physiological and socio- 
logical observations extending over many generations. 

170 Australia 

But already there are encouraging auguries of success. 
They are enumerated, with considerable enthusiasm, in 
Dr. Cilento’s study of White Men in the Tropics. They 
have been disputed by a minority of medical practitioners 
and by a visiting American geographer, Dr. Ellsworth 
Huntington. Dr. Huntington was surprised to discover 
that the people of tropical Queensland had, according to 
the census reports and the evidence of the Institute of 
Tropical Medicine at Townsville, a remarkably good 
record for health and fertility. However, he convinced 
himself that this good record was chiefly due to the 
presence in Queensland of a “picked population” of 
first-generation pioneers. A paper by the Commonwealth 
Statistician on the Vitality of White Races in Low Lati- 
tudes has made it clear that Dr. Huntington arrived at 
this conclusion by the hasty interpretation of inadequate 
or irrelevant data. What evidence exists tends to show 
that native-born Queenslanders are no less fertile than 
other Australians, that their expectation of life (which 
during the decade 1891-1901 fell short by 12 per cent, of 
the Australian average) has fully made good its earlier 
deficiency, and that the mortality of their children is below 
the Australian average of child mortality. Moreover, 
there seems no reason for believing that the quarter of 
Queensland which lies within the tropics falls below the 
general high average, for human health and fertility, of 
the whole State. 

The greater part of the inhabitants of tropical Queens- 
land gets its living, directly or indirectly, from the sugar 
industry, which is confined to the narrow shelf between 
the Great Dividing Range and the sea. This industry 
was originally established in temperate regions in the 
north of New South Wales and the south of Queens- 
land, and its history is the record of a continuous expan- 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 17 1 

sion northwards into the tropics. From the sixties of 
last century until the formation of the Commonwealth it 
depended upon the labour of Kanakas imported from the 
South Seas. It is not without significance that mortality 
among these wretched people was many times greater 
than mortality among the whites. The conscience of 
Australia and of southern Queensland itself protested 
against the disguised slavery of the sugar plantations. 
Tropical Queensland retorted by demanding a new 
State, separated from the temperate south. Had this 
demand been granted, it would have created on the 
Australian continent a plantation colony or colonies 
similar to the old plantation colonies of America. But 
the Colonial Office upheld the principle, afterwards 
embodied in the Commonwealth Constitution, that the 
consent of the whole colony was necessary for the with- 
drawal of any part of it. And, in the end, Queensland 
discovered that a division of labour separating growers, 
millers, and refiners was more efficient than the planta- 
tion economy. The sugar industry to-day is built upon 
small farmers, who send their cane to central mills, and 
upon an extravagant tariff and dumping scheme. 

According to Dr. Griffith Taylor, only 4 per cent, 
of the area of Australia is fit for tropical agriculture. 
The greater part of this area runs along the Queensland 
coast. Across the mountains, and all the way west to the 
Indian Ocean, economic enterprise is confined almost 
exclusively to the pastoral industry. Over the greater 
part of this area mining counts for very little. The best 
pastoral lands of the north lie in Queensland, which is 
likely some day to hold a larger population than any 
other Australian State. A good deal of western Queens- 
land is within the great artesian basin, and is able to 
carry large flocks of sheep as well as herds of cattle. 



Sheep require four times as many waters as do cattle, 
and (particularly in country ravaged by dingos) demand 
a considerable amount of fencing. Cattle can run in un- 
fenced or widely fenced country, and can travel long 
distances to water. For these reasons the vast tropical 
area extending between western Queensland and the 
Western Australian coast is given over almost entirely 
to cattle. The history of the settlement in that country 
is the history of the cattle industry. 

This has been, since the war, a gloomy history. The 
industry has been unable to hold its ground against 
falling prices and the competition of the Argentine. In 
1921 there were 14,500,000 cattle in Australia ; in 1926 
there were only 11,000,000. The industry has suffered 
more severely in the north of Australia than in the south. 
Pastoralists in the north depend preponderatingly on 
overseas markets, partly because of the difficulty in 
bridging the low rainfall gap between temperate and 
tropical Australia, partly because of the restrictions 
which aim to keep southern cattle free from the cattle 
tick which afflicts the northern herds. A Royal Commis- 
sion, which in 1928 reported on the meat industry of 
Western Australia, added, in a long and sad list, many 
other adverse circumstances. The cost of shipping a 
beast from the freezing works at Wyndham, in the Kim- 
berleys, 2,100 miles to Fremantle, is 100 per cent, of 
its value. The cost of transporting labour to and from 
Wyndham adds 6s. 8d. to the price of each animal made 
ready for the butchers. The total cost of preparing an 
animal for the butchers is 200 per cent, more than the 
price which the pastoralist receives. There are in the 
Kimberleys no rich paddocks for holding stock to fatten 
for slaughter. These and many other difficulties make it 
impossible for Kimberley cattle to attain the quality of 

Filling the Vast Open Spaces 173 

the chilled meat which comes to Europe from the Argen- 
tine. There are in the tropical portion of Western 
Australia about half a million cattle. These, together 
with the pearling industry around Broome and the iron 
deposits of Yampi Sound, constitute all its present 

Between the borders of Queensland and Western 
Australia lies the old Northern Territory. Sir George 
Buchanan, who at the invitation of the Commonwealth 
Government reported on the Territory in 1925, thus 
summed up its history: “The Northern Territory is 
suffering from isolation, an inefficient system of admin- 
istration, lack of communications, and constant labour 
troubles.” Between 1863 and 1910 this remote country 
was badly governed from Adelaide ; then the Common- 
wealth took charge of it, and governed it badly from Mel- 
bourne. As a sequel to Sir George Buchanan’s report, 
the Commonwealth Parliament in 1926 divided the Terri- 
tory along the latitude of 20 0 south, thereby making two 
new territories, North Australia and Central Australia. 
It also established the North Australia Commission, to 
which it gave no administrative powers, but very con- 
siderable economic powers. The Commission exists to 
develop the country. There is no reason why it should 
not in the long run achieve a fair measure of success. 
In Central Australia there is one fair pastoral area — the 
Macdonnell Ranges ; in Northern Australia there are two 
very fair or good districts — Victoria River Downs and 
the Barkly Tableland. The tropical rainfall, though it 
is erratic and confined to four summer months, varies 
from very heavy to fair. In the very years in which the 
cattle of Australia were declining by some millions, the 
cattle of the Territory were increasing by some hundreds 
of thousands. This increase was partly due to the fact 



that pastoralists in the T erritory could not (as they could 
in many parts of Queensland) turn from cattle to sheep ; 
it was also due to the fact that the Territory was under- 
stocked, and therefore escaped the heavy losses which 
bad drought inflicted upon Western Australia and 
Queensland. Northern Australia is capable of making 
a reasonable contribution to the pastoral wealth of 
Australia. It will not, however, make this contribution 
until considerable capital has been invested in the pro- 
vision of wells, and in provision of access to markets by 
means of stock routes, railways, and shipping facilities. 
The retarding influences have been high costs of material 
and transport and labour difficulties. These are the 
causes responsible for closing the freezing works at 
Darwin. The most discussed problem of North Australia, 
and the most interesting, is the problem of railway com- 
munication with the closely settled districts of the con- 
tinent. South Australia has so far insisted on the 
honouring of a pledge which promised her a railway 
between Adelaide and Darwin. The railway has already 
bridged the gap of five-inch rainfall which separates 
Alice Springs, in Central Australia, from the south. It 
would nevertheless be in the best interests of North 
Australia- and of Australia as a whole to bring the line 
from the north through good country towards the rail- 
ways which run westwards from the eastern coast of 
Australia. Northern Australia has already suffered 
sufficiently from its forced connection with the south. 
It was its natural destiny to be occupied by a pastoral 
penetration coming from Queensland. 

The cattle industry of North Australia depends chiefly 
on the labour of Australian aborigines, who receive 5s. 
a week, together with their food and clothing. It is not 
the growth of herds, but rather the expenditure of 





Government on public works, which has in the past been 
responsible for fluctuating increases in the population of 
the country. At present the white population of North 
Australia and Central Australia is o-oi per cent, of the 
population of the whole continent. There is no particular 
reason why the Australians should reproach themselves 
for the emptiness of these vast areas. They have gained 
very little in the past from their premature and expensive 
attempts to make an imposing show of settlement. It is 
sound policy to take the best country first. A well- 
ordered national economy will be in the long run the 
quickest way of filling the vast open spaces, for it will 
cause a natural and economical overflow from the more 
favoured regions. Australia’s tropics will never be full 
in the sense in which many other tropical countries are 
full. They can never hold a closely settled population of 
any race. If they are skilfully exploited, their wealth 
will enable Australia to increase, in some degree, her 
population ; but much of the increase will be found within 
the temperate zone. 

It is the pleasant lands of temperate Australia which 
British immigrants seek. After all, there is little room for 
them in the vast open spaces. They settle where they 
can find work. The majority of them, therefore, settle 
in the cities. 



National virtues follow the fashions and change with 
the times. There was once a complacent chief justice 
who pointed to the depredations of English malefactors 
(and English gallows) as a proof that his countrymen 
were braver than the French ; but Englishmen now pride 
themselves above all things on their respect for law. 
There was a time when the English loved to be thought 
(as indeed they were) a rollicking and boisterous people ; 
but nowadays it seems proper for the rich to be 
"detached” and the poor docile. That swaggering 
patriotism redolent of tavern plenty, which vaunted the 
commodities of England and taunted foreigners with 
"their wooden shoes and straw hattes, their canvas 
breeches, and buckram petticoates, their meager fare, 
feeding commonly upon grasse, hearbs, and roots, and 
drinking water, neere to the condition of brute animals 
. . .” has been frozen by sophistication, and gentility, 
and anxiety. The English are still great lovers of them- 
selves, but they no longer show it by ranting about their 
full bellies. In truth, they no longer have the best-filled 
bellies in the world. Their own emigrants boast that they 
fare better than the stay-at-homes, and the old rich 
savours of roast-beef-and-plum-pudding patriotism must 
be sniffed in the Dominions. 

Australians who grumble in their own country become 
exuberant about its "standard of living” when they 
first see real poverty in England. ‘ ‘ The essential differ- 

177 ia 



ence between these folk and people following similarly 
humble avocations in Sydney, I thought, is that these 
people live in the shadow of actual want, even of actual 
starvation. In Sydney they do not. That accounts 
for the don’t-care-a-damn light-heartedness seen in 
Australian faces, and for the dominance of care in these 
faces ” (The Record of Nicholas Frey don). Statisticians 
have 'attempted to find a rough measure of these and 
similar contrasts, by compiling index numbers which 
measure the size of a weekly basket of food (supposed 
to be typical of the habits and wants of the various 
peoples concerned) which can be bought for the wages 
prevalent in different cities. Assuming that the wage 
prevalent in London is 100, the higher or lower level of 
real wages in other places is denoted by numbers which 
fall below or rise above the London figure. The follow- 
ing excerpts from one of these tables (July, 1926, 
adapted from the International Labour Review by the 
Commonwealth Statistician) indicates that the condition 
of the “ average ” Australian working man, if not quite 
so happy as that of the American, is happier than that 
of his English and European fellows : 

London, 100 ; Philadelphia, 166 ; Ottawa, 151 ; 
Melbourne, 142; Copenhagen, 112; Stockholm, 88; 
Berlin, 70; Prague, 50; Rome, 44 ; Vienna, 44; 
Brussels, 41 ; Lisbon, 35. 

The very emphasis of contrasts in these figures should 
suggest that they must not be taken too seriously. It 
is too much to believe that the citizen of Melbourne is 
more than three times better off than the citizen of Rome 
or Vienna. In these index numbers there is room for all 
sorts of errors. First, they are based solely on food ; but 
men need more than food. Secondly, different peoples 
desire different foods, and derive different benefits even 

“Standard of Living” 179 

from the' same foods. Suppose that the statisticians had 
filled their horn of plenty with the corn and wine and oil 
of the heroes and poets ? The lot of the Australian work- 
man, compared with that of the Tuscan peasant, might 
then have seemed a hard one. Nor can index numbers 
measure the higher satisfactions. The citizen of Munich 
(we may be permitted some exaggeration) is content to 
hear Beethoven ; the citizen of Melbourne is content to 
hear broadcast jazz ; and both are satisfied. Until the 
whole human race is standardised, the standards of living 
enjoyed by its various branches cannot exactly be 

However, since values in the Anglo-Saxon world are to 
a great extent standardised, since the appetites of the 
Australian workmen differ little from those of English 
workmen, these index numbers of comparative real wages 
may be taken as an indication that the former enjoy rather 
more well-being than the latter. The difference is empha- 
sised by the comparative rarity in Australia of great 
private fortunes. To quote once more from The Record 
of Nicholas Frey don : “ Millionaires are scarce here, and 
so perhaps are men eminent in any direction. But really 
poor folk, hungry folk, folk who must fight for bare sub- 
sistence, are not only scarce — they are unknown to the 
land.” Perhaps they are not quite unknown to the land ; 
for the Australians, taking their prosperity for granted, 
have hardly bothered to insure themselves against hard 
times. Yet a visitor who comes to Australia from England 
will see little evidence of their existence. 

Australian workmen do not doubt that they are better 
off than their English brothers ; nor will they confess to 
being worse off than their American cousins. Even when 
they are told that the index of real wages is higher for 
Philadelphia than for Melbourne, they will fix their atten- 

180 Australia 

tion upon the inequalities which the American figure con- 
ceals — the high earnings of skilled labour and the com- 
paratively low earnings of those insufficiently Nordic 
peoples who have done the rough work of the country. 
For, just as Australian labour resents the larger inequali- 
ties of fortune, so also is it hostile to emphatic inequalities 
within its own ranks. And the wage-fixing authorities 
have done justice to this hostility. According to the Com- 
monwealth Statistician, the average rate of wages for 
skilled and unskilled labour is about ^5 a wee ^- From this 
average the lowest possible variation (in those industries 
which come within the sphere of public regulation) is fixed 
by the basic wage, which in 1927 varied from ^4 4 s - t° 
^4 9s. 6d. in the several jurisdictions. Variations in the 
other direction do not extend much further ; tasks de- 
manding special skill or endurance may sometimes bring 
the craftsman £7 a week, but a wage above £6 is un- 
common, and the average margin for skill is only about 
13s. Within these limits there is, it is true, a most com- 
plicated network of small inequalities. Australian labour 
has striven instinctively to pool its prosperity, but it likes 
to see ripples in the pool. Craft feeling has hitherto been 
dominant in Australian unionism, and union leaders 
struggle against the present tendency to transform crafts- 
men into machinists and' machine-minders. "Once a 
craft always a craft. ’ ’ And there are so many crafts. The 
Australian public is for ever talking about the basic wage, 
but a remarkably small percentage of Australian workers 
actually receives it. Most classes of Australian labour 
receive a ‘ ‘ secondary ’ ’ wage as the reward for some 
special aptitude. Union secretaries have developed the 
subtlety of mediaeval theologians in arguing fine points 
about "margins" for skill. "It requires some kind of 
skill," an exasperated judge once protested, "to blow 

‘ ‘ Standard, of Living ” 


one’s nose.” A deputy-president of the Commonwealth 
Arbitration Court once awarded more than 200 margins 
for skill to different workers in the timber industry. 
Despite all this, the dominant passion of Australian labour 
is for substantial equality. It accepts the customary 
group diversities within its own ranks, but is bitterly 
hostile to individual diversity, to “the insidious and 
humanity-wrecking system of payment by results.” And 
even inherited group diversity must, in case of conflict, 
give way to that modern ideal, which first became fact in 
Australia — a minimum standard for every worker. The 
basic wage is ‘ ‘ sacrosanct, ’ ’ but margins for skill are not. 
Australian democracy has insisted that its minimum 
standard of living must be "fair and reasonable,” and 
is prepared, if necessary, to realise this aim by being un- 
fairly and unreasonably niggardly in rewarding unusual 
capacity. For all these reasons, there is much more 
uniformity among Australian workers in their standard of 
living than is usually met with in new countries. There 
are, nevertheless, great diversities from the mean standard, 
because there are great inequalities in family responsi- 
bility. In 1920 the chairman of a special Basic Wage 
Commission pointed out that Australian industries were 
paying for 450,000 non-existent wives and 2,100,000 
non-existent children. This is explained by the practice 
of Australian wage-fixing tribunals in professing to con- 
sider the needs of a normal family (Mr. Justice Higgins 
had always in mind a family of ‘ ‘ about five persons ’ ’) 
and allotting a wage sufficient to meet these needs. Under 
such a system the single man is naturally in a happy posi- 
tion. Supposing that he receives the basic wage (and he 
cannot receive less) he may well have about £3 in his 
pocket after paying his weekly bill for board and lodging. 
But unhappy is the worker who has his quiver full of 



children ; he may be poorer than a Londoner, more 
wretched than a Swede. 

The Australians, however, are well aware of the logical 
imperfections of their system. The urge towards a 
genuine equality — that is, the tangible equality which is 
understood and enjoyed by individuals — has found its 
most recent expression in the system of child endowment 
adopted in 1927 by New South Wales. The original legis- 
lative proposals came from the Labour party, and were 
severely amended in the Upper House ; the Act which was 
finally assented to required the Industrial Commissioner 
of the State to declare a basic wage based upon the needs 
of a man and his wife without children, to which five 
shillings should be added for each child. The money was 
to be found by a 3 per cent, tax on employers’ wages 
bills— a tax which has been condemned by some econom- 
ists, partly because it may be passed on, partly because 
the size of a wages bill may be no fair measure of capacity 
to pay taxation. It is not necessary to recount the con- 
troversies which have continued since the passing of this 
measure. Our present concern is with its intention and 
effect in promoting equality. It is obvious that, under 
this scheme, ‘ ‘ a basic wage earner with four children will 
receive the basic wage, £4 5s., plus £1 endowment, and 
will be in as good a financial position as a skilled man with 
four children or less who is receiving ... a wage of 
£5 5s. a week.” And the levelling effects do not stop 
here. Australian labour understands very well that no 
reform is quite secure until it is generalised over the con- 
tinent. For, if it is confined to one State, it may place 
industries in that State at a competitive disadvantage 
with their neighbours and rivals. Thus it happens that 
every reform of this nature strengthens the interests 
which favour a continent-wide uniformity of the social 

“ Standard of Living” 183 

structure and encourages the unificationist assault upon 
the Federal Constitution, which gives some limited pro- 
tection to local diversities. 

The equality at which Australian democracy aims is 
obviously different from that equality which observers 
from De Tocqueville to M. Seigfried have remarked in 
the democracy of America. The Australians are not con- 
tent merely to attack privilege nor to remove the handi- 
caps which birth has imposed upon capacity. Rather, 
they tend to ignore capacities in their preoccupation with 
needs. Equality of opportunity implies free scope for 
natural talent, which must create new inequalities ; where- 
as what Australian democracy desires is equality of enjoy- 
ment. Australian democracy has done much to equalise 
opportunities, but it has also done something to narrow 
them. It is properly anxious that everybody should run 
a fair race. It is improperly resentful if anybody runs a 
fast race. Indeed, it dislikes altogether the idea of a race, 
for in a race victory is to the strong. Its solicitude is for 
the weak, and its instinct is to make merit take a place in 
the queue. 

Every tendency produces counter-tendencies, and most 
general statements conceal a diversity of particulars, even 
of exceptions, which may challenge and in the course of 
time destroy the rule. There is nothing for it, in such a 
short essay as this, but to state the main principle and 
add those more important qualifications for which, some- 
how or other, room must be found. In the history of 
Australian wages there is a second tendency no less 
striking than the tendency towards equality. Insistence 
upon needs has helped to equalise wages. It has also 
made them more rigid. The real wages of unskilled labour 
in Australia (so, at least, it appears on first sight) never 
change. A phenomenon so surprising (for Australian 



prosperity, notwithstanding its fluctuations, has grown 
considerably since the beginning of this century) requires 
some explanation. In 1907 Mr. Justice Higgins, after 
making a rough estimate of the fair and reasonable needs 
of a family of “about five persons,” resident in Mel- 
bourne, declared that a wage of £2 2s. might satisfy 
them. By the end of 191 1 prices had increased by 1 1 per 
cent., but there had been no corresponding increase in 
wages. In the following year the Commonwealth Statis- 
tician published index numbers covering the decade 
1901-n and the first three quarters of 1912. Fixing the 
number 1,000 as the base number representing the 
weighted annual cost of living in the six capital cities, he 
aimed to calculate backwards and forwards from this base 
fluctuations in the purchasing power of money. Since 
1913, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbi- 
tration has followed the practice of restating the wage of 
1907 in terms of the changed purchasing power of money, 
as indicated by the Statistician’s price-index numbers. 
This restated wage is called the Harvester Equivalent. 
Thus the wages of labour have been tied to a standard 
declared nearly a generation ago. The rigidity of this 
standard, it must be confessed, is to some extent relaxed 
by the accident of its technical imperfections. The price- 
index numbers represent a number of commodities which 
are subject to their own fluctuations ; they represent only 
two-thirds of the expenditure of ordinary working-class 
families ; nor are they concerned with quality of produc- 
tion and the changing habits of consumers. All these 
factors find no place in the Harvester Equivalent, although 
they may affect, favourably or unfavourably, the real 
earnings of labour. Moreover, there is always a lag 
between the movements of wages and prices ; when prices 
are rising (as between 1911 and 1921) the real wages of 

“ Standard of Living ” 185 

labour are generally below the accepted standard ; when 
prices are falling (as after 1920) they are generally above 
this standard. But these anomalies occur in spite of our 
desires. In so far as we really use the basic wage as a 
measuring rod, we have created, to all intents and pur- 
poses, our own original iron law of wages. It is a mon- 
strous achievement. 

“ Fair and reasonable, ” “ fair and average, ” “ normal 
needs ” — all these phrases are intelligible only as they are 
relevant to conditions of time and place. They depend, 
and must depend, on custom. But is the reward of labour 
to be for ever governed by the custom of 1907 ? In 
1919-20 Australia sought to free herself from the dead 
hand of the past by modernising her definition of needs. 
One result of this attempt was to place new emphasis on 
something which the courts had always realised and some- 
times stated — the futility of considering needs without 
considering also the capacity of industry to satisfy them. 
Some economists have suggested that the wage-fixing 
authorities should frankly accept “ capacity to pay ” as 
their chief criterion. But this criterion, too, has its 
economic critics. Nor will Labour accept it. Capacity to 
pay fluctuates both upwards and downwards, and Labour 
plays for safety. The rigid standard of wages may in- 
crease unemployment in bad times and rob the workers 
of their fair share in the enjoyment of good times ; but it 
is something definite and defensible, a rallying-point in 
the class struggle, a trench to man against the attacking 
forces of capitalism. If Australia were an exhausted 
country of dwindling resources this would be good tactics. 
But the tactics seem hardly suitable in a vigorous new 
country which has not yet reached its “optimum ” popu- 
lation. What America began to enjoy a few years after 
the war — a steady rise in wages unaccompanied by a 

1 86 Australia 

corresponding rise in prices — would seem to the Austra- 
lians a fantastic miracle. Australia’s policy might seem 
to have been specially designed to persuade the Australian 
workman of what is nevertheless untrue — that he has no 
interest in low costs. For, to outward seeming, he has no 
real interest in low prices . If his efficiency helps to reduce 
prices, he is rewarded by a scaling-down of his wages. 
This is the anti-climax of Labour’s struggles ; the 
burlesque conclusion of that practical Australian logic 
which has so persistently elaborated its generous pos- 
tulate of justice. 

Equality and rigidity ; Labour has aspired to the one, 
and been trapped by the second. But neither counts for 
quite so much as we have pretended. There is a distinc- 
tion between income and wages, and this distinction ex- 
plains why Labour has consented to bow to the yoke of 
the Harvester Equivalent — the yoke of statisticians, and 
judges, and a never-changing wage. The wage, indeed, 
is rigid, but income is not. The workers have had some 
share in Australia’s growing prosperity through additions 
to their “free income.’’ The Commonwealth Govern- 
ment in 1927-28 spent about £7, 000,000 in war pensions, 
£8,000,000 in old age pensions, £750,000 in maternity 
allowances. The greater part of this expenditure helped 
to swell the incomes of members of the poorer classes, and 
none of it existed at the beginning of the twentieth cen- 
tury. Within the same period the States have increased 
their expenditure on health and education, pensions, 
charity, and hospitals. Thus in New South Wales, 
between 1911 and 1927, while the population increased 
by 41 per cent., State expenditure on education increased 
fourfold ; payments under Employers’ Liability and 
Workers’ Compensation Acts increased twenty-two-fold ; 
Government advances helped to raise the proportion of 

“ Standard of Living” 


citizens owning or purchasing their own houses from 
52 per cent, of the population to 57 per cent. Even allow- 
ing for the change in money values, these figures mean a 
good deal. Simultaneously, the workers have gained in 
leisure. They have more holidays and a shorter working 
week. The weighted nominal hours of labour for adult 
males (excluding those employed on the land and in ships) 
were : in 1914, 48-87 hours ; in 1918, 47-88 hours ; in 
1926, 45-57 hours. It is apparent that wage-rigidity is 
less important in its social consequences than in its 
economic and psychological consequences. The worker 
has his consolations and remains convinced that Austr alia 
is, after all, the best place in the world to live in. 

And then there is Australia’s sunshine and the feel- 
ing of physical freedom and spaciousness. It must not, 
indeed, be thought that all Australians are familiar with 
those vast open spaces which are so precious an asset of 
Imperial oratory. The majority of Australians, like the 
majority of Englishmen, live in streets. According to 
the census of 1921, 62-2 per cent, of Australians were 
street-dwellers, and 46 per cent, lived in the streets of 
the six capital cities. More than half of the population 
of Victoria lives in the streets of Melbourne ; more than 
half of the population of South Australia (a State which 
is comparatively backward in manufacture) lives in the 
streets of Adelaide. Half a century ago 44 per cent, of 
Australian breadwinners were working on the land ; by 
1921 this figure had fallen to 25 -8 per cent. If Australia 
maintains the present rate of increase in the number of 
her clerks, factory hands, and salesmen (and the rate of 
increase is so rapid that already the figures for 1921 are 
hopelessly out of date) , the typical Australian will before 
long be as street-bred as the typical Englishman, 

Yet perhaps, even then, it will be possible for Aus- 

1 88 Australia 

tralians to congratulate themselves that they live in the 
vast open spaces. Instead of going out from the cities 
into the country they have brought the country into their 
cities. The streets are not like European streets. The 
municipal fathers of an Australian residential area would 
laugh at Leonardo’s counsel to equate the width of the 
streets with the height of the houses which front them. 
The typical Australian house has been reduced to a 
ground floor, and the typical suburban street is two or 
three times wider than the height of the houses. More- 
over, these houses (they are “ villas ” or bungalows) do 
not stand upon the streets, but are far withdrawn behind 
the wooden fences and green hedges which enclose their 
gardens. The chief attraction of Australian cities is the 
multitude and diversity of their public parks and playing 
fields. Yet the Australians would not be content with 
communistic enjoyment of the space and light which are 
the most notable gifts of modem transport to those who 
dwell in cities. The majority of country acres which 
have been brought into the cities have been parcelled out 
into innumerable gardens and yards ; for each house- 
holder loves to have his own private patch of country, 
whither he may retire with spade and water-can to 
satisfy the primitive, half-forgotten instincts of his rustic 

There are slums in Australian cities ; but, just as the 
Australian visitor to London or Glasgow will be im- 
pressed by the dinginess in which the majority of work- 
ing people live, so will the English visitor to Melbourne 
or Adelaide be impressed by the cleanliness and the 
airiness, the decencies and even the comforts of life, 
which seem to be within the reach of all. And, as he 
passes from suburb to suburb, he will be astonished at 
the broad spread of middle-class comfort, the apparent 

" Standard of Living ” 189 

diffusion of a middling prosperity through a great pro- 
portion of the city population. Frequently, the spectacle 
will make him impatient and uneasy. He has expected 
to see some evidence of the rigours and heroisms of 
pioneering, and such a stolid mass of commonplace 
urban prosperity heaped around the doors of an empty 
continent will appear to him unnatural, unseemly. The 
Australians themselves are half persuaded that their 
urban habits are a crime. And yet a few superficial 
observations will make it clear that it is not their faint- 
ness of heart, nor even their passion for the cinema 
(which they attend more assiduously than any other 
people), which has gathered nearly 3,000,000 Austra- 
lians into the capital cities. Australia merely illustrates 
in an exaggerated fashion what is taking place the whole 
world over. A great deal of agriculture, nowadays, is 
actually carried on in the cities. The artisan who makes 
reapers and binders, the chemist who makes fertilisers, 
the botanist who breeds new varieties of wheat, the rail- 
wayman who transports the harvest and the merchant 
who markets it, are all as actively engaged in exploiting 
the soil as the labourer who follows the plough from 
sunrise to sunset. The mechanisation of agriculture has 
steadily reduced the amount of farm labour necessary to 
produce a given quantity of food, and the inelasticity of 
human stomachs sets limits to the amount of food for 
which the world will pay. But human wants in general 
are almost limitless, and the labour which is no longer 
needed for the spade and for the plough finds employ- 
ment in shops or offices or factories. 

Nevertheless, Australia’s democratic policies have 
done something to increase, artificially, the attractive- 
ness of the city at the expense of the country. If we 
consider what vast reservoirs of voting power are stored 



around the seats of Government in Australia, it seems 
apparent that this must happen almost of necessity. The 
economic power of the cities gives them great political 
power, and their political power increases their economic 
power. By this road we approach some important excep- 
tions to that rule of equality which Australian democracy 
has instinctively struggled to apply. There are visible 
exceptions even within the cities. Within the ranks of 
the urban working classes Labour's insistence on a rigid 
wage exaggerates, in times of economic difficulty, the 
great inequalities which result from unemployment. This 
was apparent in 1929, when there occurred a serious fall 
in the national income, and Australia segregated an 
unduly large proportion of her discomfort in unemploy- 
ment camps. But the same tendency operates con- 
tinuously even in normal times and over a wider field. 
The pressure to secure equality at the highest possible 
level within one class has produced other pressures which 
have lowered levels and created inequalities in other 
parts of the community. In every country some indus- 
tries are sheltered from outside competition, while others 
are not ; and the former will guarantee higher wages than 
the latter. By means of protective duties, the Austra- 
lians have striven incessantly to extend this area of 
shelter. The process of doing so involves possible advan- 
tages and possible costs. The costs show themselves as 
higher prices. But the Australian workmen whose wages 
are regulated by public authorities (that is to say, about 
three-quarters of the total number of workmen) have no 
obvious reason for alarm at a rise of prices. Their atti- 
tude towards extensions of protection is irresponsible ; 
they do not count the cost because it appears to be some- 
body else’s cost. It is in particular the cosf of men 
“working on their own account,” of small farmers, and 

“ Standard of Living ” 


of country labourers, the majority of whom have no 
access to wage tribunals. There are no adequate data 
for comparing city wages and country wages in Aus- 
tralia ; the figures given by the Commonwealth Statis- 
tician — ^4 19s. 7d. for the “industrial” groups: 
£4 14s. 9d. for the “agricultural and pastoral ” groups 
— are notoriously inadequate. To get a fair idea, even 
according to these figures, of the inequalities which 
exist, the pastoral industry should be separated from 
the agricultural ; for the pastoral industry, so far from 
being sheltered, is strong enough to shelter ; it pays the 
wages awarded to its unionised employes and provides 
much of the fund from which is paid the cost of Aus- 
tralia’s economic and social experiments. As for the 
small farmer, no one can exactly measure what he pays 
for labour when he can afford to hire it. To some extent, 
of course, protection of wages in sheltered industries 
helps to protect wages in unsheltered industries by 
setting a standard from which it is difficult to diverge 
too widely. The farmer who cannot approach this 
standard has two alternatives : either to give up his 
farm, or to work like a slave and live in a rural slum. 
It is not necessary to exaggerate. The cost of sheltering 
favoured classes of the community (including certain 
classes of farmers) does no more than contract the 
economic margin of cultivation or impede it's natural ex- 
pansion. In some parts of Australia, such as the western 
wheat-lands, where the outward wave of expansion is 
running fast, its inward suction is hard to observe. But 
there are districts, especially in South Australia, where 
the natural margin of cultivation is drawn as sharp as a 
razor edge. There it is possible to see with dramatic 
certainty the effect of New-protection costs in contract- 
ing the margin and creating a rural slum. Under any 



system of policy there would always be gamblers who 
would suffer from their own ignorant optimism and un- 
fortunates who would be ruined by the premature acci- 
dents of bad seasons and falling prices. But the policies 
of Australian democracy make it possible for the marginal 
slum to creep inward upon solid, established farmers who 
have done much for their country and deserve better 
treatment. They pay their way ; when bad seasons come 
they skimp and struggle and wait for better times. But 
costs keep on rising, even when world prices fall. 
These men are carrying on their backs the burden of 
other people’s comfort and security, and sometimes the 
burden is too heavy to be borne. 

Against the equalities created by wage regulation 
must be set the inequalities created by the combination 
of wage regulation and tariff. The Australians have not 
yet succeeded in their quest of justice for everybody. 
Or perhaps they have not yef really begun the quest. In 
modern Australia, as in mediaeval Europe, the ideal of 
"fair and reasonable" expresses itself only within a 
system of privilege ; there still remain the excluded ones. 

However, the Australian people is, as a whole, pros- 
perous. Even the difficulties of recent years seem small 
compared with the steady achievement of this century. 
Dr. Benham has calculated that in 11924-25 the pros- 
perity of Australia was 25 per cent, higher per head of 
the population than it was at the beginning of the cen- 
tury. Prosperous communities are apt to flatter them- 
selves that they are blessed because they have been col- 
lectively deserving ; that they enjoy the rewards of their 
political sagacity. But the growing rewards which the 
Australians have enjoyed are to be explained less by their 
legislation than by their intelligent exploitation of their 
resources and by the extent of those resources. Australia 

“ Standard of Living ” 


is the poorest of continents, but is, nevertheless, a rich 
inheritance for a people which does not greatly exceed 
6,000,000. Whatever may be the number of people 
which the continent will hold — on this problem there is 
much speculation and little agreement — it is certain that 
it has not yet attained that most profitable balance 
between people and resources which will yield the highest 
average standard of individual well-being. It is there- 
fore possible that the Australians have not grown rich 
because of their policies, but that, being already rich, 
they have been able to afford them. 

Note. — T he intensification of the industrial depression, 
which has continued since these chapters were written, has 
led the Australians to be more critical of some of the policies 
which have been described, and more ardent in their devotion 
to others of them. 





From the time of the second Reform Bill and of 
Bagehot’s English Constitution until the present day, 
dons and publicists and even Poets Laureate (“Slowly 
comes a hungry people . . .”) have looked forward 
with apprehension to a struggle of the "Haves” and 
the “Have-nots,” which must jar and perhaps wreck 
the familiar mechanism of parliamentary self-govern- 
ment. These forebodings are in large measure respon- 
sible for the interest, frequently a gloomy and sus- 
picious interest, which Australia has aroused among 
political students of the old school. For in Australia, 
surely, the struggle of the “ Haves ” and the “ Have- 
nots ” has dominated politics ? What other motive than 
fear of the hungry people can have driven radicals and 
conservatives, protectionists and free traders, squatters 
and manufacturers, to close their ranks in a common 
resistance to Labour ? 

The publicists and dons have clung too much to Aris- 
totle. They have imagined Australia’s Labour Govern- 
ments to be, like Aristotle’s democracy, “the rule of 
the many and poor.” But the many are no longer poor. 
It has been the general tendency of Western civilisation 
during the last hundred years ( pace Karl Marx) to make 
the “Have-nots” a diminishing class within society. 
In Australia they have been, except in the most abnormal 
times, a negligible quantity of the population. The 
majority even of trade unionists have a vested interest in 
Australia’s capitalistic society. Nor are trade unionists 




the sole clients and patrons of Labour. Labour, if it is 
to achieve power, must win the suffrages of other classes 
— of retail traders and small business men and struggling 
farmers. These are the “marginal ” votes which fix the 
values of Labour policy ... so that they cease to be 
distinctive Labour values ! Just because the vote of the 
trade unionist can usually be relied upon, it counts for 
less than the vote of the greedy farmer. The strength 
of his vote is as the strength of ten, because — in "the 
cause ’ ’ — his heart is not pure. Thus do trade unionists 
labour, and others enter into their labours. 

The Labour party, nevertheless, is in its structure 
and its essential character a product of trade unionism. 
Australia possesses more trade unionists in proportion to 
her population than any other country in the world. In 
1840 about 1 Australian in every 318 was a trade 
unionist ; in 1855 the proportion was 1 in 54 ; in 1914 it 
was 1 in 9 ; in 1927 it was approximately 1 in 7. Every 
imaginable condition which is favourable to the growth 
of trade unionism has (since the middle of last century) 
been present in Australia. The great mass of immigrants 
to the country has come from the nation and the class 
which have been most accustomed to craft organisation ; 
and when the mass began to move, its Chartist leaders 
were already “ sick of the everlasting babblement of the 
men who swear by Adam Smith.” In their new country, 
where Governments were so paternal and so democratic, 
this babblement seemed fatuous. The very soil and 
climate of Australia seemed to have a grudge against 
petty individualism, and drove disappointed land-hungry 
diggers into the cities or the shearing-sheds or the deep 
mines — and into association. It was a hard land if a 
man would be his own master on his own plot of soil ; 
but it offered him self-respect and independence and even 

The Labour Party 199 

a master’s pride as the member of a class. Thwarted 
individualism found consolation in the gospel of mate- 
ship, and declared its independence in collectivist mani- 
festos. The State protected the workers’ right of asso- 
ciation ; the workers used their right of association to 
capture the State. 

Until the seventies of last century Australian trade 
unionism was confined to the capital cities and the 
mining towns, and was modelled conservatively on the 
craft lines of English trade unionism. In the eighties it 
began to develop its own distinctive peculiarities. There 
were two striking illustrations of the new tendency. In 
the first place, the eighties and early nineties witnessed 
the gradual emergence of a new and unique organisation, 
the Australian Workers’ Union. The shearers, although 
they were migratory workers moving up and down the 
length of the continent with the seasons, had discovered 
in the shearing-sheds a community of living, working, 
and thinking, which made organisation a simple matter. 
But the shearer’s union soon surrendered its independent 
existence, and became no more than the nucleus of a 
larger body, which aimed to include all rural workers 
and all sorts and conditions of unskilled or semi-skilled 
men (navvies, fettlers, and the like), who, strictly speak- 
ing, were not rural workers at all. The A.W.U. is 
‘ ‘ more like a general federation of labour than an indus- 
trial union.” Its creation and survival represent a 
triumph of organising ability and sound business methods. 
It is a conservative influence, and has been for thirty 
years or more the most powerful single force within the 
Labour movement. 

The second original development of Australian trade 
unionism in the eighties of last century was its decision 
to play a direct part in politics. Even before the gold- 



rush days craft unions had spasmodically intervened in 
political issues by means of demonstrations and petitions. 
In the seventies organisations like the miners 1 union had 
agitated strenuously and not unsuccessfully for govern- 
mental action to protect the health and decency of 
working men when they were threatened by the rapacity 
of employers. The delegates to the Second Intercolonial 
Conference of Trade Unions (1884) decided to take a 
further step. They resolved to appoint committees in 
each colony to lobby in the interests of the workers 
pending the time when (with payment of members) the 
workers should secure direct representation in Parlia- 
ment. The time was nearer than they imagined. 

At this same conference of 1884, sober Australian 
trade unionists found themselves for the first time fervent 
in the spirit of socialism. There was in these days in 
Queensland a prophet called William Lane, who went up 
and down the land crying: “Ho, every one that 
thirsteth, come ye to the waters !” The waters were 
turbulently Marxian ; but Lane was at heart an English 
Puritan, a spiritual descendant of Winstanley and the 
digger-communists of seventeenth-century 'Sussex. In 
1893 he gathered a band of disciples, who sold all that 
they had and gave into a common chest, and sailed 
away with him in the Royal Tar (for Lane was also a 
patriot) to build Jerusalem in the green, unpleasant land 
of Paraguay. They named their Jerusalem New 
Australia. Theirs was a magnificent venture, led by one 
of the heroes — and it failed. Dull people have told the 
story (interspersed with reflections on the French 
Revolution) as a cautionary tale for Communists. 

Some of Lane’s followers still live in Paraguay. They 
are staunch individualists. In Australia Lane’s socialism 
still lives — not, it is true, the Utopian socialism which 


The Labour Party 

founded New Australia, but rather the practical prosely- 
tising socialism which called upon the crafts to merge 
their undisciplined companies in a great working-class 
army, whose battalions would ‘ ‘ move as one man for the 
common Labour cause.” Lane gathered a considerable 
host of Queensland’s workers into the Australian Labour 
Federation, whose manifesto, issued in 1889, is curiously 
modern in its expression both of the idealism and the 
opportunism of the Labour movement. The manifesto 
enumerates the demands of an uncompromising socialism, 
and concludes bluntly : ‘ ' The reorganisation of society 
upon the above lines to be commenced at once and pursued 
uninterruptedly until social justice is secured to each and 
every citizen.” But hard on the heels of this defiance 
follows "The People’s Parliamentary Platform,” a mild 
reformist document intended to woo electors who have 
no enthusiasm for socialism in our time. 1 1 This docu- 
ment,” observes Mr. Portus, “is very interesting, 
because it reveals the appearance of a dilemma which 
has fronted Labour politicians since 1890. On the one 
hand, there is enthusiasm to be engendered. This needs 
the proclamation of a new social order and the profes- 
sion of a new social creed. ... On the other hand, 
there are votes to be won. Not all Australians are doc- 
trinaires. Very many of them own their dwellings and 
draw savings bank interest. Many others are skilled men 
conscious of their equipment and its market value. ...” 
And there are other voters, not trade unionists at all, 
whom Labour must win if it is to hold power, and whom 
it cannot win if it threatens revolution. ”... Thus there 
has come about in Labour policy the familiar juxtaposi- 
tion of collectivist aims and reformist programmes.” 

The collectivist aims are the passion of a very 
energetic minority; the reformist programmes are the 



tool of a sensible but uninspiring majority. This majority 
is conservative and empirical in the familiar British 
fashion ; it is weak in logic and strong in intuition ; 
defeated in debate, it accepts an ‘ 1 objective ’ ’ which is 
satisfactory to the “militants,” but pursues a policy of 
palliatives which they despise. Thus there is within the 
Labour movement a perpetual bickering between the 
practical men and the idealists. The practical men com- 
plain that these impatient idealists, with their wild words 
and their wild actions (a strike at election time seems to 
the Labour politician a very wild action), ruin Labour’s 
chances with the electors. And what can Labour achieve 
if it does not hold the State ? The idealists retort that 
Labour Governments will achieve precious little if they 
creep into power by bribing the cowardly bourgeoisie. 
What can Labour achieve if it denies its own cause ? The 
practical men always control the electoral machine, but 
sometimes a rebellion of the idealists gives them tem- 
porary control of some part of the industrial machine. 

The idealists broke away in 1889-90. There was first 
of all that magnificent declaration of fraternity in- 
spired by Lane, when a' contribution of £30,000 from 
Australian workers (a sum which was seven times the 
size of the total contributions of the trade unionists of 
England) decided the issue of the London dockers’ 
strike. It seemed then that the gates of capitalism could 
not prevail against the righteous armies of Labour. The 
idealists rushed headlong into a battle for “the closed 
shop.” Decent men would not work with non-unionists. 
But this was making the pace too hot. Prices were 
falling, and already there were rumblings of the 
economic storm which in 1893 burst over the heads of a 
spendthrift community. The employers stood their 
ground and demanded “freedom of contract.” Thus, in 

The Labour Party 203 

the great strike of 1890, the very existence of unionism 
seemed to be at stake. The employers won a resounding 
victory. Public opinion and the Government supported 
their cause as the cause of ' ' law and order. ’ ’ The idealists 
had led their followers almost to annihilation. But even 
while the Government was still stamping out the last 
embers of insurrection, the practical men took charge of 
the Labour movement. They seemed to be leading a 
retreat, but in reality they were planning a sortie. 

In 1891 the practical men of the New South Wales 
Labour movement formed an electoral league, which 
put before the constituencies a platform of sixteen 
planks, expressing, not only the aims of moderate trade 
unionism, but also the political and social aspirations 
of Australia’s radical democracy. In the same year 
thirty-six Labour men were returned to the New South 
Wales Parliament, where they organised themselves as 
a third party holding the balance of power. This meant 
that, despite its defeat in the great strike, unionism was 
safe. In the next ten years the moderates of Labour 
amply demonstrated the value of political action. In the 
first place, political action secured for trade unionism 
not only the recognition but even the favour of the State. 
The employers clung as long as they could to “the 
sound old principle of freedom of contract,” but in the 
end they had to accept the official pronouncement of a 
Commonwealth judge : “It may seem very shocking in 
some quarters, but it is my duty, in obedience to the 
law, to treat unionism as a desirable aid in securing 
industrial peace.” In the second place, political action 
secured for working men advantages which they could 
not have won by the most triumphant direct action 
unless (a fantastic supposition for Australia) it had been 
the direct action of successful revolution. For strikes 



may conceivably secure for the trade unionist within his 
factory all those boons which a benevolent State may 
grant him ; but the trade unionist is not everlastingly 
inside his factory. Two-thirds of his time he spends 
eating and sleeping and digging his garden, or taking 
his children to the beach, or arguing in public-houses, 
or watching football matches, or talking politics. The 
worker, after all, is a citizen ; and if his friends control 
the Government he may expect to benefit, not only as 
a worker, but also as a citizen. Only the Legislature 
can make a tariff, or restrict immigration, or tax the 
community to provide more pensions, more medical 
attention, and more free education. It would not, indeed, 
be just to credit the Labour party with all the humani- 
tarian legislation of the last forty years. Labour 
politicians have often complained that their opponents 
have caught them bathing and have stolen their clothes, 
but many of their own decent democratic garments have 
been filched from Liberal wardrobes. What Labour has 
done is to determine the standard of democratic fashions 
and to enforce their rapid adoption. And it was able to 
do this even before it held office. 

The history of the Labour party until 1929 falls into 
three distinct periods. In the first period (which was 
not the least productive) it held the balance of power 
between the two older parties, and offered “support 
in return for concessions.” As the spokesman of the 
party in New South Wales expressed it in 1891 : “For 
we want to get as much as possible out of the honourable 
gentleman who sits at the head of the Government 
benches ; and if we cannot get very much from him, then 
we must put someone in his place from whom we can 
get more.” This period of profitable bargaining may be 
said to have ended about 1908. In the next couple of 

The Labour Party 205 

years the older parties throughout Australia were forced 
into coalition, yet the Labour party achieved power 
against their united strength. This was the period of its 
most striking successes. It reached its climax of political 
triumph in 1915, when it governed the Commonwealth 
and five of the six States. But 1916 ushered in a third 
period in the party’s history — a period of initial disaster, 
of partial recovery, of an uncertain future. In 1916 
Labour split on the issue of conscription and expelled its 
old leaders. As a result, it lost power in the Common- 
wealth and in every State save Queensland. After the 
war it began gradually to climb out of its depression. 
By 1924 it had so far recovered its strength as to capture 
the majority of State Governments. But within five 
years it had been again ousted from every State save 
one. It seemed in this post-war period as if Labour 
must depend upon moderate swings of the pendulum ; 
for the party made no real advance into new territory, 
and the political battle ebbed and flowed across the old 
frontiers. In the middle of 1929 the Labour party lost 
even Queensland. Its fortunes then touched their lowest 
level. But, before the year was ended, a violent reaction 
of the Australian electorate carried Labour in over- 
whelming strength to power in the Commonwealth. This 
election may open a new period in the history of the 
Labour party. But the period will be a very difficult one. 
Labour won this great political victory at a time when 
economic forces were threatening to undermine many of 
its old achievements. Not only was there no margin for 
social experiment ; even "the settled policy of the 
country” was on the defensive. It almost seemed as if 
the "party of movement” would be compelled to 
produce a Government of conservatism. 

20 6 


The interpretation of these various chapters in the 
history of the Labour party must be sought in a study 
— first, of its organisation ; and secondly, of its pro- 
gramme and “objective.” 

There are, of course, special regional variations and 
peculiarities of Australian politics which (in a book more 
precise and leisurely than this) it would be profitable to 
examine. For example, there are the regional peculiari- 
ties of the electoral map. There is the anomaly of 
Queensland, which for fourteen years has returned 
Labour Governments in the State, while it has regularly 
sent a strong Nationalist contingent to the Federal 
House of Representatives and has persistently selected 
Nationalist senators. There is, on the other hand, the 
anomaly of Victoria, which in the sphere of Common- 
wealth politics has been fairly evenly divided between 
Labour and Labour’s opponents, yet in State politics 
has been almost uninterruptedly anti-Labour. Some of 
these oddities are a reflection of Australia’s reluctance 
to reproduce in the political system her urban concentra- 
tion of numbers. The Commonwealth electoral laws allow 
a ' * margin of allowance ’ ’ which may give to voters in 
a country constituency an influence which is greater by 
one-fifth than that which belongs to voters in the average 
Commonwealth constituency. In Victoria, country 
voters enjoy an even greater predominance. This is a 
serious handicap to the Labour party. Queensland, on 
the other hand, is unique in that the Labour vote for its 
State Parliament has been predominantly a vote of 
country electorates — a vote of farmers who are appeased 
by “development,” and of shearers, stockmen, miners, 
cane-cutters, itinerant State employes and their friends. 
For these classes are particularly numerous in Queens- 
land. At the same time, Queensland’s Nationalist repre- 

The Labour Party 207 

sentatives in the Commonwealth Parliament have bar- 
gained successfully on behalf of the sugar industry, and 
the electors see no reason to throw them over so long 
as they protect this great sectional interest. It should be 
added that Australian political parties (like parties in 
other parts of the world) are at times ready to dig them- 
selves in by gerrymandering the electorate — although 
the electorate may punish them if they gerrymander too 
brazenly. For many years the Labour Governments of 
Queensland and the anti-Labour Governments of 
Victoria were able to secure their succession by arrang- 
ing and conserving an electoral balance favourable to 
their interests. To deal with this matter at all satis- 
factorily, it would be necessary to go into great detail. 
A close examination of Australia’s electoral map would 
indeed be a most profitable and entertaining exercise ; 
but in a sketch such as this it is necessary to assume a 
generally uniform electoral background to party organi- 
sation, principles, and interests. 

Although the organisation of the Australian Labour 
Party is not everywhere absolutely uniform, its strength 
consists in its great symmetry, discipline, and continent- 
wide cohesion. Every unionist is automatically a member 
of the A.L.P., and supporters of Labour who are not 
unionists may become active members of the party by 
paying a small subscription and joining a local branch. 
In the cities, a branch is coterminous with a constituency ; 
in the country, it is centred in a township or some other 
convenient grouping. Members of branches join with 
the unionists who live in the same area to choose by a 
pre-selection ballot the local party candidate, and to elect 
delegates to attend the State conference of the party. 
The conference has been baptised with a variety of 
names in the various States. It usually meets once every 



year. Its function is to draw up the State platform, and 
to elect delegates to the Australian conference of the 
party, which meets triennially and draws up the Com- 
monwealth platform. This is a very summary sketch of 
the Labour Party’s organisation, and it makes no allow- 
ance for certain Western Australian variations from the 
model. It should nevertheless be evident that the Labour 
party has achieved a concentration of local machinery 
which is hardly less symmetrical than that which is planned 
to exist in a system of soviets. But the Labour organisa- 
tion is more than a concentration of local machinery. The 
separate local organisations count in practice for very 
little, even in the selection of candidates. The essential 
disciplinary and controlling power, in State politics, is 
the State executive, which acts as a “committee of 
permanence ’ ’ in the intervals between conferences. In 
1915 the Commonwealth conference also established a 
Commonwealth executive. 

The individual member of Parliament is very strictly 
controlled by the party organisation. The principle of 
severe party discipline was established in New South 
Wales during the last decade of the nineteenth century. 
Some of the thirty-six Labour members so sensationally 
elected in 1891 were inclined to think of themselves 
as national representatives rather than as delegates 
chosen by one interest within the community. To 
“solidarity” they opposed “independence.” “Solid- 
arity ’ ’ triumphed, for it was proved in the next few years 
that “independence” would break Labour’s political 
weapon. It seemed hardly worth while drawing up a 
platform unless Labour members were pledged to be 
its disciplined and loyal servants. The pledge very early 
became an essential part of the Labour system. Every 
member of the party who submits his name to a pre- 

The Labour Party 209 

selection ballot binds himself not to oppose any selected 
Labour candidate, and, in the event of his being chosen 
by the party and returned by the constituency, to do his 
utmost to carry out the party platform, voting on all 
matters affecting the platform as a majority of the parlia- 
mentary party may decide at a duly constituted caucus 
meeting. The caucus, which consists of all members of 
the party in both Houses of the Legislature, meets at 
least once a week, and, after thorough discussion, 
decides what course the party will follow in debate. It can- 
not be denied that this is a notable departure from the 
traditional English practice of responsible Government. 
To begin with, it permits members of one branch of the 
Legislature to influence and perhaps decide in advance 
the conduct of members in the other branch. More- 
over, the head of the Government surrenders to caucus 
his function of arbitration and final decision within the 
Cabinet, which is elected by caucus and responsible to 
caucus. In 19x6 a Labour Premier of New South Wales, 
having been censured by a body outside Parliament, 
handed his resignation, not to the official head of the 
State, but to caucus. Yet caucus is by no means all- 
powerful. Ministers may be the delegates of caucus ; 
but is not caucus the delegate of conference? Confer- 
ence, it is true, meets only for short periods. Its normal 
state is dissolution. But before each dissolution it creates 
an executive charged with the duty of keeping watch 
over the orthodoxy of temporising politicians. The com- 
fortable bourgeois atmosphere of Parliament is so cor- 
rupting 1 Yet (so strange is human nature) it is the 
destiny, not always unforeseen and unwelcomed, of many 
an unbending zealot of conference to fight his way into 
the select company of politicians by the very simple 
process of criticising them and upbraiding them. And 


210 Australia 

when he is of their number he finds himself compelled 
by circumstances to side with them in the running 
fight for the control of the political side of the movement 
between the parliamentarians and the conference.” 
From time to time there are reports of terrific battles 
within conference between the political and the industrial 
wings of the Labour movement. But in fact both wings 
are political. The right wing tends to be preoccupied 
with electoral tactics and the difficulties of government ; 
the left wing is in touch with militant unionism and the 
enthusiasts of the movement. But even these delegates 
of the left are politicians. Otherwise they would not be 
delegates, struggling to control, in the interests of their 
faction, Labour’s political machine. 

The practice of the Australian Labour party makes 
England’s classic philosophy of parliamentary govern- 
ment appear strangely artless and out of date. ‘ 1 Every 
member,” says Blackstone, “though chosen by one 
particular district, when elected or returned, serves for 
the whole realm. For the end of his coming thither is 
not particular, but general ; not barely to advantage his 
constituents, but the Commonwealth.” At no period of 
Australian history has parliamentary practice cor- 
responded with this theory. Before the advent of Labour 
politics tended to be a battle of the Ins and Outs, in 
which a member of Parliament readily assumed that the 
chief end of his coming thither was precisely to 
advantage his constituents. Every Labour member is 
now sent thither to advantage his class. The entire 
system of pre-selection, platform, pledge, caucus, con- 
ference, and executive is constructed for this very 
purpose. Yet the purpose is never to any alarming extent 
realised. Australian experience suggests that the most 
formidable organisation of the labouring classes can 

The Labour Party 21 1 

never, under the British parliamentary system, become 
the instrument of class domination. Despite the lamenta- 
tions of the comfortable classes, they have never really 
suffered from the oppressions of Labour. Under the 
traditional English convention, which makes the elec- 
torate the grand inquisition of the nation and forces 
responsibility upon the strongest body within the Legis- 
lature, the party system cannot fail to remain, what it 
has always been, an instrument for governing society 
and not an instrument for turning it upside down. 

It may be true that modern party organisation, by 
withdrawing power from the old inherited institutions, is 
gradually preparing a new political framework and 
governmental system. It may be possible to imagine a 
time when Parliament has become no more than a 
"dignified” part of the Constitution, and perhaps not 
even that. But this is the vaguest speculation. The 
historical importance of Labour organisation consists in 
the efficiency with which it has adapted the old institu- 
tions to new purposes. Labour has made parliamentary 
struggles realistic in the sense that the parties now stand 
for definite interests. It has done a great deal to free 
political life from the perpetual anarchy of local jobbery 
and the blackmail of factions. The fragmentation of anti- 
Labour forces in recent years has given the Australians a 
salutary reminder of evils which were chronic in the nine- 
teenth century. Labour discipline has performed a ser- 
vice to Australia by simplifying politics and making them 
intelligible to the voters. But the voters are not always 
grateful. The ordinary Australian is more apt to 
denounce the defects of the party’s organisation than 
to do justice to its merits. Australia is becoming 
weary of what it calls “machine politics.” The very 
efficiency of the machine tends to kill enthusiasm. The 



whole system is designed to enforce orthodoxy at the 
expense of leadership. It tends to produce the “in- 
visible government" of commonplace cliques competing 
with each other for the privilege of manipulating the 
machine. In this way the most characteristic movement 
of Australian democracy may in the end produce a 
system of government which is, in the strict sense of the 
word, unpopular. 


7? IT 1v Tv 

Moreover, the Labour party has achieved many of its 
early objectives ; the flavour of old triumphs is stale, yet 
it has found no new purpose which it can pursue with 
the old zest. 

In its youth and its prime it appealed strongly 
to Australia’s radical nationalism. Next to the 
Sydney Bulletin it was the most emphatic product of 
Australian sentiment. The Commonwealth Labour party 
defined its objective in 1908, on the very eve of its 
great triumph, as — “(a) The cultivation of an Australian 
sentiment, based upon the maintenance of racial purity 
and the development in Australia of an enlightened anc 
self-reliant community, (b) The securing of the ful 
results of their industry to all producers, by the collective 
ownership of monopolies and the extension of the 
industrial and economic functions of the State and muni 
cipality.’’ This objective may be regarded as a fai 
interpretation, in terms of politics, of the protestan 
nationalism of Australia’s poets, which repudiated ii 
their country’s name the baleful power of “ Mammon ’ 
and “ the West.’ ’ It is a fair interpretation of Australia' 
firm resolve that ' ‘ human life is not to be treated in tb 
game of competition as if it were a ball to be kicked.’ 
In its objective the Labour party declared Australia’ 

The Labour Party 213 

national faith ; and the nine planks of the ‘ ‘ fighting 
platform,” which gave precision to this declaration, 
expressed, every one of them, the ideal of a self-respect- 
ing, independent Australian nation, whose very person- 
ality must consist in its devotion to social righteousness. 
Australia must be a white man’s country ; it must not 
sell its birthright to foreign capitalists ; it must provide 
for its own defence ; it must foster its own mercantile 
marine ; it must do justice against the land monopolist 
and the industrial monopolist ; it must care for the aged ; 
it must hold the ring and see fair play between capital 
and labour. These, surely, were ends for which 
Australian patriots could fight. Nor did the leaders of 
Labour forget that their country was part of a larger 
unity in whose strength, and in whose strength alone, 
Australia was free to be herself. It was Fisher, 
Australia’s Labour Prime Minister, who first described 
the British Empire as “ a family of nations,” and who 
in 1914 pledged his country to uphold the common 
cause “to the last man and the last shilling.” 

It would be absurd to suggest that Labour policy 
before the war was a policy of principles and not of 
interests. It was a policy of principles and interests. 
After the war the interests remained the same, but the 
principles seemed to have changed. The strain of the war 
broke the old radical-nationalist party of Fisher and 
Hughes. After the conscription referenda, the practical 
Australian nationalism of the old leaders, which was 
always reconcilable with a strong Imperial sentiment, 
became for a time the exclusive political property of 
Labour’s opponents. Although in practice Labour 
politicians preached Australia for the Australians and a 
sort of Sinn Fein exclusiveness, Labour’s new ideology 
had the colour of international pacificism. It also had the 



colour of international socialism. In 1921 the Labour 
party adopted as its professed objective “the socialisa- 
tion of industry, production, distribution, and ex- 
change.’’ Since that date Labour politicians have been 
compelled to profess and call themselves (but not joy- 
fully nor in the market-place) socialists. The new 
objective has been a handicap to the practical men of 
the Labour movement in their efforts to win the con- 
stituencies. In the old days the party leader might well 
have opened a campaign by reading out the party 
objective, and then treating each plank in the fighting 
platform as a commentary upon that text. In these days 
the political leaders of Labour are reticent about their 
objective, which is quoted in the meetings of Labour’s 
opponents and pushed forward as a bogie to frighten the 
electors. It is not true to say, as is often said, that 
Australian Labour has no doctrines. Australian Labour 
has doctrines, but the majority of Australians have none. 
It is the political misfortune of the Labour party that 
its old nationalistic doctrines appealed directly and 
powerfully to the instinct of the Australian people, 
whereas its new socialistic doctrines are repugnant to 
their instinct. For the socialism which is defined in the 
party’s objective is orthodox socialism, the sort of 
socialism which the believers of Germany or Italy 
profess ; it is a European product. But the old Australian 
experimentalism which some people called socialism was 
not really socialism at all ; it was rather the practical 
utilitarianism preached by John Stuart Mill in his later 
days, running towards State action under the pressure of 
circumstances. Australians understood that sort of thing 
(“It is my brand of socialism,’’ said Fisher) and still 
understand it. It has become almost a part of their 
national character. The practical men of the Labour 

The Labour Party 215 

party understand this character perfectly, and wish that 
they were free from the embarrassing doctrines thrust 
upon them by the idealists. 

In practice they try to ignore the doctrines. Their 
electoral propaganda remains in fact the same propa- 
ganda which was so fruitful in pre-war days. In some 
respects it is even more nationalist and empirical than 
it was then — for example, it now demands a tariff raised 
almost to the point of prohibition. Since the war the 
practical men have instinctively struggled to broaden the 
party outwards from its strict class basis, and to make 
it once again a national party. The elections of 1929 
are a tribute to their success. But the success has been 
painfully won, and there is no guarantee that it will be 

It is possible to group with some degree of accuracy 
the opposing forces of moderates and militants, of 
practical men and idealists, of right and left. On the 
extreme left are the Communists. Their numbers are 
inconsiderable, but their influence, in New South Wales, 
is not altogether negligible. Sydney is the home of the 
Australian branch of the Pan-Pacific Secretariat, an 
organisation which seeks to link with Moscow the 
workers of all countries bordering on the Pacific, and 
which is pledged ‘ ‘ to fight against and remove all racial 
and national barriers which still divide the exploited and 
oppressed classes to the advantage of the exploiters and 
oppressors.” The Pan-Pacific Secretariat has the 
strong support of some members of the Sydney Trades 
and Labour Council, who, however, deny that they are 
Communists. The Sydney Trades and Labour Council 
is the stronghold of left-wing opinion within the 
Labour movement, and has exercised a powerful influ- 
ence upon the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That 



body was established in 1927, and represents the tardy 
and incomplete success of a movement which, between 
1879 and 1927, made no less than fifteen attempts to 
give to Labour an industrial cohesion comparable with its 
political cohesion. The A.C.T.U. still has to prove itself 
as an effective power. It may, however, be counted as 
a left-wing organisation, not merely because it has been 
persuaded to affiliate with the Pan-Pacific Secretariat 
(that action counts for very little) , but because it attacks 
the vested interests of the old trades unionism. It aims 
to establish unity of administration and control over the 
whole industrial movement, and to transform Australian 
unionism from a craft to an industrial basis. It is there- 
fore committed to a struggle against the small, discrete 
fragments of industrial Labour, and, at the same time, it 
has provoked the hostility of Labour’s largest and 
strongest body, the Australian Workers’ Union. 

■The A. W.U. is the core of the right-wing forces within 
the Labour movement. It is, in itself, a great confedera- 
tion of labour, and is extremely well managed by hard- 
headed and business-like leaders. It is predominantly a 
union of Bush workers, covering the whole continent and 
including the most distinctive Australian types. It 
believes in political action, and trains an extremely large 
proportion of Australia’s Labour politicians. It has a 
strong vested interest in the status quo. Its officials may 
usually be trusted to support at party conferences the 
parliamentary members of the party. These are (with 
rare exceptions) another rallying-point for right-wing 
opinion within the movement. In normal times the right 
wing is predominant. Even the so-called militants are 
usually ready to compromise. The A.C.T.U., in the 
same session in which it affiliated itself to the Pan-Pacific 
Secretariat, resolved to enter an industrial peace confer* 

The Labour Party 217 

ence with the employers. The truth is that Australian 
Labour, even when it professes to be militant and revo- 
lutionary, does not really believe half of what it says. 
In its heart it hopes that the capitalists will observe the 
rules of the game, and that the community will act as 
referee. Much of its militant roaring is no more than that 
“barracking” for which Australian sporting crowds are 

The main lines of cleavage between left and right are 
easily discerned ; but there is considerable coming and 
going between the two camps, and the co-existence of 
different aims and methods or the succession of one set 
to the other frequently creates a great deal of confusion 
and a considerable amount of bad temper, both within 
the party and outside it. The question of industrial 
arbitration well illustrates this state of affairs. In 1904- 
1905 the problem of industrial arbitration overthrew 
three Ministries in quick succession ; a generation later 
the same problem was still wrecking Governments. The 
method of its solution is of the most vital importance 
to the Labour movement. The Labour movement is 
essentially a function of trade unionism ; but trade 
unionism, as it now exists, is to a considerable degree 
the product of industrial arbitration. The system has 
been responsible for a rapid increase in the numbers of 
trade unionists. Even the wages board systems of 
Victoria and Tasmania favour the growth of working- 
class organisation, for they bring workers together for 
the purpose of electing their representatives to the 
boards. But the effect of the judicial regulation of 
industry (even apart from the system of preference to 
unionists which has frequently accompanied it) is practi- 
cally to compel trade union organisation. Only organised 
bodies can approach the courts. Some unions are to all 



intents and purposes built upon the awards of the courts. 
What happened in the early days of industrial arbitra- 
tion was that the officials of a union, having obtained 
an award which raised wages and improved conditions 
all round, would go through the country and say to the 
workers in their craft or industry : “ See what we have 
done for you.” The men could not stand out. Added to 
this was the effect of the Commonwealth Court in 
promoting the Interstate organisation of Labour. In 
1927 there were 369 separate associations and groups 
of associations in Australia, of which 107 were organised 
on an Interstate basis . These 107 associations contained 
81 per cent, of Australia’s 911,652 unionists. Because 
of Australia’s Federal system a considerable proportion 
of this 81 per cent, had access to State tribunals as 

The left-wing idealists assert that the unions have lost 
in quality more than they have gained in numbers. They 
complain that industrial arbitration destroys the interest 
and enthusiasm of the rank and file ; for the system has 
produced a species of trade union official who acquires 
a special kind of pettifogging skill in the handling of 
court business which the great majority of union mem- 
bers are content to leave within his hands. Moreover, 
they complain that industrial arbitration ties the unions 
to the State and ties the State to the capitalist system. 
This, certainly, is its intention. The protection of 
unionism by the State carries with it considerable control 
of unionism by the State. Where the State gives 
privileges it must impose obligations. If it takes special 
notice of a group within its jurisdiction it must interest 
itself in the constitution and action of that group. If the 
State does not control the group the group may begin 
to control the State. Now the party of action within 

The Labour Party 219 

every Labour movement looks forward to this very end 
— that the group should control the State. Therefore 
it must resent a system which, while it organises Labour, 
simultaneously ‘ ‘ tames ’ ’ it. In Italy the ‘ 1 recognition 
of the syndicates ” has meant the recognition of them as 
groupings absorbed within the State and subdued to 
its discipline. Perhaps it is not altogether fantastic to 
see in the short-lived Amending Arbitration Act of 1928 
— with its insistence on penalties for the breach of 
awards, its insistence on the collective responsibility of 
unions for the disorders let loose by sections and frag- 
ments of their management, its assertion for the Com- 
monwealth Court of a right to order and supervise secret 
ballots on matters of union policy and to exercise a 
stricter control over union rules — some faint tendency of 
drift towards the “corporative State/’ But the ten- 
dency, if it was present in this Act, was the outcome, 
not of deliberate purpose, but of exasperation. It was 
an attempt to enforce the old original principle that 
industry, under the system of compulsory arbitration, 
was a new province for law and order. But even 
moderate Labour opinion has never accepted all the 
logical and legal implications of this principle. It has 
never really believed that strikes are illegal acts. Its 
own idea has been “arbitration plus strikes” — strikes 
being a necessary safety-valve. The Act of 1928 
threatened to close this safety-valve ; it endeavoured to 
round off the arbitration system into logical perfection. 
Labour’s idealists retorted with their own logic. A whole 
series of left-wing pronouncements and demonstrations 
repudiated the awards of ‘ ‘ class-biassed judges ’ ’ and 
all the theory underlying those awards. Times were 
favourable for a revolt. Great masses of unionists were 
ready to listen to left-wing oratory and to down tools, not 



because of any theory, but because arbitration awards 
were reflecting a noticeable diminution of Australia’s 
prosperity. The practical men of the Labour movement 
were forced upon the defensive, for they accepted 
neither the logic of their left-wing supporters nor that 
of their political opponents. 

The practical men got their chance at the end of 1929. 
For the Commonwealth Government, still logical, en- 
deavoured to cut the knot of a thousand perplexities by 
returning to the States almost the whole business of 
industrial arbitration. The entire Labour movement 
rallied immediately to its political leaders, and along with 
the solid body of trade unionists came an assortment 
of special interests and the wavering middle vote of the 
constituencies. Labour was sent back into office with 
instructions to maintain “the settled policy of the 
country.” The electorate had rejected the idealists of 
both parties. 

It has been necessary to chronicle these events, not 
merely because they are recent, but because they 
illuminate the complication of forces which are at work 
within and around the Labour movement. If it were 
possible to measure the strength of those forces it would 
also be possible to foretell Labour’s future. Labour to- 
day is hampered by its earlier successes. It has long 
since gained its immediate objectives, which were of 
the kind to attract nationalist enthusiasm and the un- 
attached middle vote in the Australian electorate. 
Having gained these objectives, it has found no policy 
which will rally the whole-hearted support of all its 
followers and at the same time win constant approval 
from the unpledged part of the electorate. This means 
that it is just a political party, based upon a class in 
the community, but reaching out to represent small- 


The Labour Party 

income people generally. As such it must take its chances 
on the swing of the political pendulum, and it must rely 
on the mistakes of its opponents in order to win power. 
And what is it to do when it has won power ? So much 
it has achieved already — so many planks of its original 
fighting platform have been made law — yet the trans- 
formation of society (and, after all, the pioneers of the 
Labour movement did believe that society might be 
transformed) seems no nearer than it has ever been. 
The idealists wish to press on with the work of trans- 
forming society, and suspect that practical men and 
parliamentary methods are incapable of achieving it. 
The practical men have to appease the idealists without 
terrifying the electorate. For if the idealists get out of 
hand Labour will not long remain in office. The 
politicians of Labour try to keep a just balance between 
their left-wing supporters and the floating vote in the 
constituencies. The balance exists only to be destroyed 
and to be remade again. Its state at any given period 
depends in large measure on the economic condition of 
the country. This, perhaps, is the crux of the matter. 
A generation ago, to Australia’s idealistic democracy, 
economic and social problems seemed easy to solve. 
Australia is now beginning to learn that they are difficult. 
This new knowledge may induce futile anger, or a spirit 
of revolt, or new habits of thinking and planning. 
Perhaps the auguries will brighten once more for Labour 
and for democracy when they begin to understand that 
their triumph is not predestined. 



It is curious to observe how the unconscious logic of 
representative government imposes itself upon the 
conscious logic of a movement which is drilled and dis- 
ciplined to exploit representative government as the 
means to an end. Every State of the Commonwealth 
has had, since the war, some experience of a Labour 
Government ; but in no State, save perhaps New South 
Wales, has this Government resembled even faintly the 
rule of the many and poor. In every State, save New 
'South Wales, there has been an increasing antithesis 
between the socialistic objective of the Labour move- 
ment and the opportunist, non-socialistic policies of 
Labour Governments. The majority of working-men 
tolerate this opportunism, partly because they care very 
little for socialism, and partly because they are pleased 
to see their own leaders holding the helm of State, no 
matter how cautiously and conventionally they guide it. 
Moreover, even if these leaders do not always govern for 
the workers, they will not (though in Queensland a 
Labour Premier dared even this and paid the penalty) 
govern against them. But this is only the beginning of 
the paradox. No party can govern against the workers. 
The same necessity which tempers the zeal of Labour 
politicians moderates the ardour of their opponents. 
They, too, must go scouting from their base of class 
interest and instinct and theory far out into the electoral 
no-man ’s-land, where free companies and guerilla mer- 
cenaries wander irresolutely between the two armies 


The Parties of Resistance 223 

which chaffer for their support. The free companies are 
sometimes ridiculously small (in the country districts of 
South Australia, over a long period of years, a party’s 
vote seldom fluctuated by more than 5 per cent, from 
its normal strength), but their adherence to one side 
or the other is decisive of electoral battles. Their 
numbers may be contemptible, but their price is 

Moreover, the opposing political armies must contend 
on a field which has been levelled by the busy spade 
of government and watered by the gentle rain of humani- 
tarianism. The field exhales an atmosphere which is 
mild and misty, and which corrodes the weapons 
sharpened by the zealots of opposing classes for the 
arming of their political champions. The champions 
seem very angry, but they do not fight to the death. 
If the Labour party dare not practise socialism, the 
Nationalist party dare not even profess individualism. 
The platform of the Australian National Federation, as 
adopted at the Fourth Interstate Conference in 1926, 
professes belief in child endowment, unemployment 
insurance (to be uniform throughout all States), and 
“the establishment throughout Australia of a uniform 
working week in each industry, which shall be as short as 
is permitted by the economic requirements of the 
nation.’’ It protests the devotion of the Nationalist party 
to the policies of Protection, of organised marketing, of 
“vigorous development.’’ These planks, and others 
which might be taken from the platform at random (as 
they have been put into it), would serve very well for 
the legislative programme of a new Labour Ministry. 
The Nationalist party platform, it is true, counts for 
very little — even as propaganda. It is large and untidy 
and frequently ambiguous. No single section of it 



suggests urgency. Nationalist policy is not dictated in 
party congresses, but is framed experimentally by the 
parliamentary leaders. Perhaps for this very reason it is 
always sensitive to the political atmosphere. In this 
atmosphere strenuous old-fashioned individualism mopes 
and pines like a pelican in the wilderness. There are 
in Australia unrepentant individualists and uncompromis- 
ing socialists ; but the rebellious wills of both have 
always been absorbed in the general will, the real will 
of the Australian people — in that elaborate regulative and 
bureaucratic system which has been erected upon the 
ideas of “fair and reasonable,” of individual rights and 
governmental obligations. 

It is very easy to prove that the parties which have 
opposed Labour (they have made unnecessary confusion 
by the multiplicity of their names and changes of name) 
have flourished neither by grinding the faces of the poor 
nor by waving high the banner of anti-socialism. When 
M. Albert M6tin made his study of Australia’s socialisms 
sans doctrines, no Labour Government had as yet held 
power in any Australian colony. In the second half of the 
nineteenth century the interest of Victorian politics lay in 
a rather disorderly struggle between groups which may be 
called “liberal” and “conservative.” It was the task 
of the Liberals, first, to win political power for “mere 
numbers,” and, secondly, to wield the power of the State 
on their behalf. After theoretical democracy, untheo- 
retical socialism. . . . Colonial politics of that period 
knew no disciplined parties, and amid the confusion of 
shifting groups and unstable Ministries loomed David 
Syme, the editor-proprietor of a great newspaper, the 
most dour and formidable of radical chieftains, the maker 
and unmaker of Governments. It was Syme’s unwaver- 
ing purpose to break the monopoly of squatters and im- 

The Parties of Resistance 225 

porters, to make ' ‘ standing room in the young colony for 
farmers and for other people who were neither squatters, 
nor merchants, nor diggers.” His instrument was the 
State. ” I never could see any virtue in laissez faire, ,> 
he wrote. “It is simply an excuse for incapacity and 
inertia in affairs of State. It is a policy of drift. It is just 
what the company-promoter, the card-sharper, the wife- 
deserter, and the burglar would like — to be left alone. It 
can only lead to national disaster and social degradation 
when carried out in any community.” Inspired by Syme, 
Victorian Governments endeavoured to establish a sturdy 
yeomanry in the country, and to build up in the city a 
class of dexterous artisans. Believing that industry 
existed, not for the sake of foreign trade, but for the 
sake of ‘‘the masses of each separate nationality” (the 
antithesis is his own) , Syme declared that he would not 
rest ‘ ‘ till Victoria is encompassed with a tariff wall that 
will enable the local manufacturers to pay the local 
artisans a fair living wage and at the same time to com- 
pete in the local market with the imported productions of 
underpaid foreign labour.” Here is foreshadowed the 
system of New-protection, of ‘‘fair and reasonable con- 
ditions of labour ” enforced by the State behind its tariff 
wall. Before the end of the nineteenth century Victorian 
Liberals had established the system of wages boards, and 
South Australian Liberals had established the system 
of industrial arbitration. The Labour party, when it 
emerged, had only to emphasise and make more urgent 
the programme which it inherited from the Liberals. The 
Liberal party still continued to tread — perhaps with less 
confidence, for a rival was now forcing the pace — the 
familiar path of semi-socialism. That elaborate Victorian 
system of Government enterprise described in Chap- 
ter VIII. was built up by Liberals in the first twenty years 




of the twentieth century, during which Labour held office 
in the State for no more than thirteen days. 

Federation removed the tariff and other large national 
issues from the sphere of State politics ; and it is in the 
sphere of Commonwealth politics that the fortunes of the 
parties opposed to Labour may be most conveniently con- 
sidered. At the beginning of the century the Labour party 
was united on everything except the fiscal issue, which it 
was then content to treat as a matter for individual judg- 
ment. At war with Labour and with each other were two 
older parties, one favouring Free Trade and the other 
Protection. Each of these parties presented an unbroken 
front on the fiscal issue, but each was internally divided 
on many other issues. It was difficult, complained Deakin, 
to play the game of politics with three elevens in the field ; 
but that was not the whole trouble. To the inconveniences 
of the three-party system were added the inconveniences 
of the group system, which was not a system at all, 
but rather chaos. When in 1904-1905 three Ministries 
followed and fell on each other’s heels, Deakin exclaimed 
in exasperation : ' ‘ In some way or other the three parties 
must be reduced to two.” By accepting the support of 
the Labour party (at the price of driving some of his own 
followers into an anti-Labour “ corner ”) Deakin was able 
to give the Commonwealth stable government for three 
and a half years (May, 1905, to December, 1908). 
Within this short period all the positive policies of Austra- 
lian nationalism were launched. This is the era of Pro- 
tection and New-protection and Imperial Preference, of 
plans for a national navy, of the selection of Canberra as 
the site of the national capital, of projects for the exten- 
sion of Commonwealth powers (destined to be served up 
to the Australian people with monotonous regularity 
throughout the next twenty years), of old age pensions, 

The Parties of Resistance 227 

of the Harvester award, of the system of “fair and 
reasonable." The Free Trade opposition under Reid 
waved the banner of anti-socialism, and tried in vain to 
dam the spate of Liberal legislation. The Labour party, 
although it outnumbered Deakin’s followers by three to 
two, was content that Liberalism should do its work. 
But when Liberalism at last began to look uncertainly for 
new worlds to conquer (some Liberals were half afraid 
that they had already conquered too many) , then Labour 
decided to take charge of the national destinies. “ Our 
party has kept the Deakin Government in office for 
nearly three years," declared one of the Labour leaders, 
“ until dry rot has set in. . . ." Labour overthrew the 
Deakin Government in December, 1908, but it did not 
overthrow the Deakin policy. It was content to make 
that policy rather more emphatic . It extended protection 
to cover Australian shipping ; it enlarged the scope of 
arbitration ; it imposed a land tax ; it established a 
maternity bonus and the Commonwealth bank — and that, 
practically, was all that it added of “ dangerous innova- 
tion." It is therefore apparent that the later generation 
of Liberals, which has grown restive under the yoke of 
Government “interference," and asserts that “things 
must be put back on an economic basis once again," is 
in rebellion against a system built up by the earlier, more 
sanguine Liberalism. Liberalism is an ambiguous word. 
It is, indeed, out of date in every State of the Common- 
wealth save South Australia. Since the last years of the 
war the Liberals have called themselves Nationalists. 

From the political philology of Australia may be 
quarried a good deal of political history. Conservative is 
a word which has no currency at all ; in Australia it sig- 
nifies reactionary. Similarly, if a politician declares that 
he is liberal, his audience will understand that he is by 

228 Australia 

nature conservative. Nationalist is a word which covers 
a multitude of diversities ; the party which uses the label 
could not hope to find one more useful, for it still has 
some appeal to patriotic eyes, and is conveniently empty 
of precise meaning. Yet if these party titles do not in- 
dicate clear-cut qualities, they are at least a record of 
events and crises. Until 1908 the word liberal is associ- 
ated with the growing power of Labour ; from 1909 to 
1916 it marks a stage in the organisation of forces hostile 
to Labour. For when the Labour party upset the Deakin 
Government at the end of 1908, Protectionists and Free 
Traders forgot their ancient quarrels, joined forces (this 
was the fusion ), and turned Labour out again ! The anti- 
socialists accepted the suspected name of Liberal and the 
suspected leadership of Deakin, and were recompensed 
when they heard him profess a stern resolve ‘ to fight any 
tendency to fatten up our industries for consumption by 
the Government of the Commonwealth.” As for Deakin, 
he wrote in wondering perplexity : " Behind me sit the 
whole of my opponents since federation.” The fusion, 
nevertheless, was natural and inevitable. Liberalism of 
the Syme and Deakin brand had exhausted its pro- 
gramme. If the weary battlers for free trade and free 
enterprise were willing to accept — for fear lest worse 
befall — what the Liberals had already done, why should 
not the Liberals — who felt that they had done enough — 
accept from their old enemies the pledges of surrender 
and acquiescence? The fusion of parties safeguarded 
Deakin’s work and made it (to quote once more a popular 
phrase) “the settled policy of the country.” Here was 
firm foundation for a new conservatism. Yet the equi- 
librium of opposing forces within this aggregation which 
called itself the Liberal party was only momentary. The 
old Protectionists wished to rest, but not to stay still for 

The Parties of Resistance 229 

ever ; the old Free Traders hoped, in their hearts, for 
a retreat. When Joseph Cook, who had been Reid’s 
lieutenant, inherited the leadership of the party, “anti- 
socialism ’ ’ began to gain the upper hand. But then came 
the war. 

The war compelled politicians of all parties (as a 
Labour leader exulted) to burn their books on political 
economy. Governments regulated everything. Moreover, 
since the war was fought to make the world safe for 
democracy, the masses in all democratic countries were 
encouraged to believe that peace would mark the begin- 
ning of “ a new social order.” Australian opinion was in 
the mood for further progress along the road explored by 
Deakin and Fisher. And there was no party which cared 
to resist the new advance. In 1908 the original party of 
resistance had accepted the Deakin Liberals ; ten years 
later this enlarged party of resistance (which called itself 
Liberal and was becoming truly conservative) opened its 
ranks to the expelled Labour leaders who followed 
Hughes. The new fusion was not made in a day. A year 
of coalition (1917) intervened between the repudiation of 
Hughes by his old followers and the acceptance of him 
by his old opponents. When at last they accepted him 
(January, 1918) they accepted him as master. They 
renounced more than their party name. There is justice 
in the claim so frequently made by Mr. Hughes, that he 
was the creator of the Nationalist party. Until the end 
of 1922 he dominated it. When the Labour party ex- 
pelled its leaders, it condemned itself to long wanderings 
in the wilderness ; when the Liberal party accepted them, 
it condemned itself to defend and even to enlarge the 
gains of Labour. The conservative individualistic faction 
— the remnant which had remained faithful to the ideas 
of Reid — was once again submerged. 



There do exist strong conservative interests in 
Australia, but they have been persistently baffled and 
thwarted in their attempts to express themselves effec- 
tively in the parliamentary struggle. Australia has never 
once witnessed a resolute conservative counter-attack 
against the radicals. Conservative politicians have pre- 
ferred to break the force of the radical attack by counter- 
penetration. Labour has been opposed by ' ‘ ever-expand- 
ing coalitions of defence ” which pay their new recruits 
by docking the pay of their old ones. The necessity of 
subordinating class interests to electoral tactics imposes 
itself also on the Labour party ; but within the Labour 
party it is resisted and checked by strong disciplines bind- 
ing the politicians to the organised working-classes. In 
the Nationalist party there are no such disciplines. The 
Nationalists, of course, have their party “machine,” 
which on paper appears little less elaborate than the 
Labour organisation. There is an Australian National 
Federation which holds a conference every three years. 
Its business is to draw up the party platform and to elect 
an executive of eighteen members, three from each divi- 
sion of the National Federation — that is, from each State 
of the Commonwealth. But in practice half of the divi- 
sions never bother to send their full quota of six delegates 
to the conference, and some of them send no delegates at 
all. As a result they have little or no representation on 
the executive. Theoretically, the conservative opinion of 
the outlying discontented States may at its will impose 
itself on the Australian National Federation, and wipe 
from the party platform those reformist programmes 
stamped with the ideology of Deakin’s Radicals and 
Hughes’ Labour men. In practice members of the 
Nationalist party in the less populated States of Australia 
have just so much power of determining its policy as have 

The Parties of Resistance 231 

the smaller European States of dominating the League of 
Nations. Party programmes and even party organisations 
are in fact controlled by the parliamentary leaders. This 
is true even in Western Australia, where the classes which 
vote for the Nationalist party are generally hostile to that 
‘ ‘ settled policy of the Commonwealth 1 ’ which Nationalist 
politicians (being averse from political suicide) have been 
reluctant to challenge. 

Conservative opinion may assert itself more easily in 
State politics. It will be worth while examining the strong 
organisation which the forces opposed to Labour have 
built up in South Australia, a State which once was 
strongly radical. The fact that the conservatives of 
South Australia still profess and call themselves Liberals 
is in itself an indication that they have comfortably 
absorbed the fragments of the Labour party to which they 
opened their ranks during the last years of the war. In 
South Australia the National Labour faction was weak in 
personal authority. Moreover, Liberalism was more 
homogeneous there than it was in the eastern States. 
The pastoral, agricultural, and commercial interests which 
dominate South Australia are wont to present a united 
front on economic and political questions. Conditions 
have therefore favoured the growth of an unusually strong 
party organisation which has spread its network over the 
whole State, and which by means of its branches, district 
committees , council, and executive mobilises about one 
elector in every twelve to work in the party’s interests. 
It is a feature of the Liberal organisation that the council 
and the executive are very large bodies ; and there are 
half a dozen special committees which serve to keep the 
members of these bodies active and interested. Every 
party member has some share of responsibility in the 
choice of party candidates. It is clear that under vigorous 

232 Australia 

leadership the Liberal Federation can be a very efficient 
organisation for spreading political propaganda and 
managing electoral campaigns. The Federation does not 
attempt to control the Liberal party in Parliament. It 
contents itself with exacting from the candidates who 
seek its backing a pledge that they will ' ‘ support the 
principles of the Federation in Parliament, and not con- 
test the election if not selected.” Once they have been 
selected by the party organisation and returned to Par- 
liament by the electors they look to the Liberal Federa- 
tion, not as to a master who gives orders, but as to a 
servant and ally who works for them in their constituencies . 
The leader of the party in Parliament chooses his Cabinet, 
and the members of the Cabinet are collectively respon- 
sible to Parliament, not individually responsible to a 
caucus. Thus the Liberal Federation in South Australia 
(and this is true, a fortiori, of the weaker Nationalist 
organisations in other States) has not departed very 
far from the British model of party organisation. 
The party machine is unable to impose a very stringent 
discipline upon members of Parliament, because the 
machine is not moved by a single coherent and disciplined 
class. The various organisations of employers which exist 
in Australia (Chamber of Manufacturers, Chamber of 
Commerce, Employers’ Federation, etc.) may hold strong 
political opinions and do their best to propagate them, 
but they do not play a direct part in the political struggle. 
They have no place in the framework of any party. The 
only interest, other than that of the wage-earners, which 
has effectively organised itself for politics is the farming 

Tr TP 7T 

The Country party is (except in Western Australia) a 
phenomenon of the post-war period. Within a few years 

The Parties of Resistance 233 

of its emergence it was strong enough to play a decisive 
part in politics. It originated as a protest against the 
Nationalist practice of resisting Labour programmes by 
copying them. It preferred to copy Labour disciplines. 
For, like the Labour party, the Country party has a well- 
defined class basis. It represents the seceding farmers. 
It is as if Western Australia were to revolt from the 
Australian Commonwealth. For the Nationalist party is 
a federation of divergent and sometimes conflicting 
interests — of regional interests (such as the Queens- 
land sugar interest), of manufacturing and commercial 
interests, of city interests and country interests, of count- 
less fragmented special interests in both city and country. 
It is an immense simplification of politics that these 
groups should struggle to assert themselves within a party 
to which they confess a common loyalty rather than that 
each should assert its own separate identity and fight for 
its own particular spoil over quicksands of dissolving com- 
binations amidst ever-changing pacts of covetousness. 
But the system has its own dangers. It does not favour 
resolute and decided leadership. Should there be need 
for surgery upon the body politic, the Government can 
hardly operate with a steady hand, so insistently is its 
elbow jogged by clamorous, disputing assistants. Leader- 
ship tends to dwindle into management, into the astute 
adjustment of differences. And adjustment tends always 
to favour the vague and tolerant minds, the late-comers, 
the groups which lie on the margin of the party, the 
interests which hesitate just beyond its margin. Com- 
promise is easier that it is in the Labour party, but ulti- 
mately it is more damaging, for it is made persistently at 
the expense of one section, which sulks. But the farmers 
did more than sulk. 

The revolt of the farmers towards the end of the war 



has made its own legend. The enthusiasm of Govern- 
ments for driving farmers into ‘ 1 pools ’ ’ and fixing prices 
for their produce reached a limit of fantastic impractic- 
ability (so the legend begins) when the Commonwealth 
Government announced its intention of commandeering 
live-stock and selling meat to the industrial population of 
Melbourne at ‘ ‘ fair and reasonable ’ ’ prices. In Victoria 
there exists a class of small but substantial farmers who 
live by their skill in judging stock and markets, by buying 
and fattening beasts for the Melbourne butchers. These 
men saw their living in jeopardy, and descended upon 
Melbourne to protest to the Government. The Govern- 
ment refused to listen to them. So they demonstrated 
angrily outside Parliament House. The Government gave 
way. It was a victory for the conservative farmer, who 
went back to his work contented, having demonstrated 
to others less conservative, the possibilities of political 
action. . . . The legend may be true ; it is certainly 
hen trovato. But it over-stresses the sudden dramatic 
inspiration of the farmers’ revolt. Long before the war 
there had existed, in all parts of Australia, Farmers’ and 
Settlers’ Associations which at their annual conferences 
considered, and postponed, plans of direct political action, 
and in the meantime (one recalls the genesis of the Labour 
party) contented themselves with systematic lobbying. 
These Farmers’ and Settlers’ Associations were based 
on the most exclusive class sectionalism ; in Victoria 
they would not even admit country store-keepers to their 
fellowship. In Western Australia, where the Farmers' 
and Settlers’ Association organised itself as a party as 
early as 1914, its sectionalism asserted itself in disciplines 
more stringent than those of the Labour party. Each 
Parliamentary delegate was ' ‘ bound absolutely in prin- 
ciple and in detail to the platform adopted from time to 

The Parties of Resistance 235 

time .at the annual conference ” ; and “in the event of 
any doubt arising as to the interpretation of the party 
platform,’’ the whole Parliamentary contingent might be 
dragged before the Association’s executive. Two years 
of political experience proved that these rules were un- 
workable, and they were modified in 1916. But through- 
out Australia the Country party remains the disciplined 
instrument of an acute class-consciousness. 

The class-consciousness of countrymen is, however, far 
more localised and particular and fragmented than is the 
class-consciousness of trade unionists. The interests of 
the working-classes of Australia have been standardised 
by decades of levelling up and levelling down and levelling 
across the entire continent. But the interests of dairy- 
farmers and wheat-growers are distinct, and between 
maize-growers who seek protection and pastoralists who 
use maize for dry feeding there is an open clash of 
interest. The Country party, no less than the Nationalist 
party, is a coalition of diverse interests. In New South 
Wales, where the Labour reinforcements of 1917-18 
powerfully impressed their character on the Nationalist 
party and made it unacceptable to many conservatives, 
the Country party has the support of the pastoralists. In 
addition, it is strong in the northern rivers district of the 
State, which has a special grievance against Sydney, and 
which returns to the Commonwealth Parliament Dr. Page, 
the apostle (though no longer a very fervent apostle) of 
the New State movement and the leader of the party in 
Parliament. In South Australia, on the other hand, the 
Country party is weak ; for there the expelled Labour 
leaders counted for very little, and the Liberal party there 
has always been dominated by country and commercial 
interests. But in Western Australia, where the old 
Liberals were very weak and the National Labour men 



very strong, the Country party is the political instrument 
of .a powerful organisation which expresses the opinion 
of substantial pastoralists and farmers, and in addition 
manages the only successful co-operative wheat .pool in 
Australia. In contrast with this sturdy growth, the 
Victorian party has become the Heaven-sent instrument 
of cockey-farmers, and marginal wheat-growers, and 
fruit-growers on irrigated lands, who seek an untidy 
agrarian socialism for themselves. Here there has been 
an open split between farming interests, and a fourth 
party has appeared — the Country Progressives. The 
disintegration of Parliament into groups has produced a 
succession of weak Governments quite incapable of 
defending Victoria’s extensive Government businesses 
from blackmail and pillage by predatory Naboths. In 
Queensland, on the other hand, the strength of Labour 
in the end imposed unity on the opponents of Labour, 
and a weak Country party became content to act as a 
detached wing of the Nationalists. Queensland, to all 
intents and purposes, is now ruled by the two-party 

The Country parties of the various States select candi- 
dates for the Commonwealth Parliament and send dele- 
gates to a Commonwealth conference ; but, despite their 
imitation of Labour disciplines, they cannot, like Labour, 
become a “movement.” They do not represent a single 
interest within the nation, but a mass of special interests. 
For this reason the Country party in the Commonwealth 
Legislature has not initiated new policies nor attacked old 
ones, but has adapted itself to the “ settled policy of the 
country ’ ’ and extended it for the benefit of rural interests. 
The elections of December, 1922, returned to Parliament 
38 Nationalists, 23 members of the Labour party, and 
14 members of the Country party. The Country party, 

The Parties of Resistance 237 

which was in a position to dictate terms, refused to work 
with the Nationalists unless they took to themselves a 
new leader. After six weeks of negotiation, Mr. Hughes 
resigned from the Government and advised the Governor- 
General to send for the Treasurer, Mr. S. M. Bruce. 
Within a week was formed the Bruce-Page ministry, 
which was thereafter approved by the country in two 
successive elections (1925 and 1928). The “pact” 
between the two parties united them in Parliament, but 
respected their separate identity as autonomous organisa- 
tions, and gave to the Country party a position in the 
Cabinet altogether disproportionate to its numbers, “so 
that ” — as Dr. Page explained to his followers — “ if the 
policy they advocated could not be secured they would be 
able to pull out, just like an army corps, with their lines 
of communication and all their forces intact, to put their 
case before the public again as an independent political 
organisation.” “The policy they advocated” was (in 
brief) governmental economy, the formation of New 
Slates, easing of the tariff in favour of the primary pro- 
ducer, and war against socialism “of the fig-leaf dis- 
guised variety.” This policy looked like a great rebellion 
against the tendencies of twenty years. But the many- 
footed Country party soon found that it could not kick 
against the pricks. It had proclaimed a revolt ; it pursued 
compensations. Instead of trying to demolish the struc- 
ture raised by Deakin and Fisher and Hughes (that 
seemed a hopeless task) it had the structure enlarged to 
make room for the needy farmers who hitherto had been 
left to work in the heat and dust. The policy which it 
pursued, as distinct from the policy which it had 
announced, is revealed in the plea “that the dairyman 
is entitled to a fair Australian price, based on Australian 
living standards, for that part of his output which is con- 



sumed by Australians, and that he should not be too 
rigidly governed by conditions ruling at the other end of 
the world” (see Chapter V.). This meant, logically, 
New-protection for everybody. Perhaps some future 
historian will discover the leaders of the Country party to 
have been men of Macchiavellian cunning. It is so much 
easier to destroy a political edifice by piling on to it a 
top-heavy superstructure than by dislodging single bricks. 

In the early years of the Bruce-Page Government the 
theme of “ fair and reasonable,” familiar since Deakin’s 
day, rose to a crescendo. In 1925 its harmony was first 
pierced by sharp protesting notes from the Tariff Board. 
The orchestra took no notice, and the conductor followed 
the orchestra. But in 1927-28 Mr. Bruce began to signal 
a diminuendo, and tried to prepare the Australian audi- 
ence for a change of theme. For the first time for many 
years the old radicalism and optimism began to waver. 
There was talk of counting costs and a search for 
economic disciplines. The old conservatism, which had 
been submerged in 1909 and 1917, and which had been 
disappointed in 1922, began once again to emerge, with 
a demand that the country should grapple with economic 
realities. At last, in 1929, the Nationalist and Country 
parties, whose factions had grown so used to political 
adjustment, were asked to accept leadership — and defeat. 



In Australia we are as a rule hardly conscious that we 
have a foreign policy. And yet the social policies in 
which we are so intensely interested have effects which 
do not stop at our own frontiers. We are concerned 
most of all with our high standard of living, but we know 
well enough that this depends on our policy of immigra- 
tion exclusion. Such a policy must be double-sided : it 
affects both the country which is in a position to receive 
migrants and the countries which are in a position to 
export them. It is true that the world, at the present 
time, appears to admit that these policies of exclusion 
are within the domestic jurisdiction of the excluding 
countries. This is because the effective force behind the 
countries of immigration is stronger than the effective 
force behind the countries of emigration. If the balance 
of power were to be reversed, the right of exclusion 
(against which there have already been many mur- 
murings) would, sooner or later, be swept away. In 
Australia we have exercised this right primarily (in fact 
if not in form) against Asiatic countries. In recent years 
we have extended its operation by instituting “quotas,” 
which limit the immigration from Southern Europe. It 
is a very good illustration of our national status that in 
this business we have negotiated directly with a first- 
class Power such as Italy. Moreover, as we have 
assumed direct responsibility for our own policy, so have 
our diplomatic manners and intelligence improved. Yet 
perhaps we do not sufficiently understand that im- 




migration restriction is, in fact, a frontier policy. It is 
a policy of security, like the historic Rhine policy 
of France. And, like every other policy of security, 
it possesses, at least potentially, an element of provoca- 

We have also pursued a geographical policy of 
security. At the Peace Conference of 19*9 Mr. W. M. 
Hughes upheld “Australia’s Rights” in two most 
important particulars. He fiercely resisted Japan’s 
attempt to secure from the assembled Governments a 
recognition of “racial equality.” And he demanded for 
Australia that, “as she had fought for the safety of 
the world, the world should at least see to it that those 
islands which lay like ramparts along our coast should 
not he in the hands of an actual or potential enemy.” 
He wanted Australia to annex what she had conquered, 
and he did not want Japan to annex anything at all. In 
the end he had to be content to see Japanese oceanic 
expansion stopped at the Equator, and to receive the 
islands conquered from Germany as a C mandate, which, 
he believed, gave to Australia “almost all the rights 
of ownership.” Mr. Churchill has described the 
astonishment which came upon the assembled statesmen 
when they realised that Australia’s innocent young 
democracy was no less bellicose than were the unfor- 
giving nations of Europe. “‘And do you mean, Mr. 
Hughes,’ said the President, ‘that in certain circum- 
stances Australia would place herself in opposition to the 
opinion of the whole civilised world?’ Mr. Hughes, 
who was very deaf, had an instrument like a machine- 
gun emplaced upon the table by which he heard all he 
wanted ; and to this he replied dryly : ' That’s about it, 
Mr. President.’ This discussion had been very grati- 
fying to M. Clemenceau, and for the first time he had 

Foreign Policy 341 

heard the feelings of his heart expressed with unbridled 
candour. He beamed upon Mr. Hughes. ...” 

The policy which Mr. Hughes pursued at Paris was 
nothing new. Throughout the second half of the nine- 
teenth century the Australian colonies had unceasingly 
plagued the British Government with demands that it 
should annex islands right and left in the Southern Pacific. 
The prevailing conditions of lawlessness (intensified 
when Queensland entered the blackbirding business) did 
indeed demand that some strong Power should assume 
responsibility. Mr. K. L. Martin’s study of Missionaries 
and Annexation in the Pacific (Oxford, 1924) proves 
that religious benevolence, seeking to atone for the in- 
humanities committed by disorderly traders, has made 
a most powerful and persistent contribution to Australia’s 
expansionist enthusiasm. The missionaries follow the 
traders, and the flag follows the missionaries. This is 
quite a normal feature of modern imperialisms. But the 
imperialism of these Australian colonies was not merely 
a blend of benevolence and calculation. It sprang from 
an intense racial self-consciousness combined with a con- 
tinental insularity. The Australians were then pre- 
occupied (as indeed they still are) with what they 
considered to be their domestic concerns. They had no 
precise knowledge of how their policies affected other 
peoples. Their attitude to the outside world was one of 
indifference, shaken by occasional spasms of alarm. All 
they wanted was security, and this to them meant isola- 
tion. Sir Thomas Mcllwraith declared early in the 
eighties that the Australians must take New Guinea “for 
the purpose of keeping bad neighbours from coming near 
them.” But, to the colonists, any neighbour seemed a 
bad neighbour. Dr. Lang had denounced the presence 
of the French even in far-away Tahiti, and to this day 




the Australians look upon the French in New Caledonia 
and the New Hebrides as bad neighbours. The Con- 
dominium in the New Hebrides disguises as a partnership 
the friction of British and French, and France makes 
herself unpopular by admitting Asiatic labourers and 
transported convicts. These, it is true, are particular 
grievances. After the Franco-Prussian War the 
Australians no longer feared that the presence of France 
in the Pacific was a menace to their security. It was 
then Germany’s turn to become “bad neighbour.’’ 
Froude happened to visit Australia about the time of 
Bismarck’s annexation of northern New Guinea and the 
adjacent islands. ‘ ‘ If Australia had been a single 
State, ” he wrote, “with a fleet of its own and with Mel- 
bourne statesmen at its head, it is not at all impossible, 
so angry were they, that they would have sent their ships 
round to warn the Germans off.” This was a very 
moderate statement of the facts. The Australians had 
already proclaimed, in their own hearts, a Monroe 
Doctrine for the South Pacific. In 1872 the Premier 
of New South Wales invited the British Government to 
annex New Britain, the Solomons, the New Hebrides, 
the Marshall, Gilbert, and Ellice islands. “It appears 
to us,” he said, “that a more extended dominion in 
these waters on the part of Great Britain would be not 
only consistent with the maritime supremacy of England, 
but would conduce much to the tranquillity and peace 
of these Australian colonies.” Similarly, Sir Thomas 
Mcllwraith in 1883 condemned the acquisition of terri- 
tory south of the Equator by any foreign Power as 
“highly detrimental to the safety and well-being of the 
British possessions and injurious to the interests of the 
Empire.” It was in the following year that Germany 
seized her share of New Guinea. To the Australians 

Foreign Policy 243 

this territory became almost an Alsace. They recovered 
it in 1914, and have made a clean sweep of German 
interests and German planters. But the same war which 
gave them their chance of revenge threatened to establish 
south of the Equator yet another neighbour — not a very 
near neighbour, it is true — Japan. It was the prospect 
of this unwelcome propinquity which, to the delight of 
M. Clemenceau, so excited Mr. Hughes at the Paris 
Conference. When he returned to Australia he was 
ready to proclaim Australia’s Monroe Doctrine against 
the world. “While the Monroe Doctrine exempts the 
two Americas from the jurisdiction of the League of 
Nations,’’ he declared, “we would not allow anything 
relating to our sphere in the Pacific to be regarded as 
a proper subject for submission to the tribunal.’’ 

These, then, are our policies of security. “A con- 
tinent for a nation and a nation for a continent.” Since 
federation we have asserted thaf claim with increasing 
emphasis. We intend to keep Australia “ninety-eight 
per cent. British.” We will not permit any strong Power 
to establish itself in our vicinity. We ourselves must 
hold the islands which cover our continent. But we our- 
selves are a small nation, a weak people. Our security 
becomes a liability, not only upon ourselves, but upon 
the whole British Empire. In so far as we realise this 
liability and shoulder the responsibilities which it imposes, 
we are a nation. In so far as we deny the liability and 
shirk the responsibilities, we remain a colony. Independ- 
ence consists less in the assertion of rights than in the 
assumption of responsibilities. National status means 
that we count the cost of our actions and meet it. 
Colonial status means that we accumulate debts and 
expect somebody else (probably our fond parent) to pay 



The transition from colonial status to national status 
is very well illustrated by the history of our long con- 
nection with New Guinea and by the history of our 
defence policy. The first demand for the annexation of 
New Guinea came from Australia in 1867. The colonies 
assumed that Great Britain would pay the cost. In 1874 
the rumours of German designs upon New Guinea first 
began to circulate. Lord Carnarvon thereupon consulted 
with the colonies, who advised Great Britain to annex 
the country — at her own expense. In 1883 the rumours 
circulated once again, this time more persistently. The 
Australians bombarded Downing Street with letters and 
telegrams, urging it to act quickly. Downing Street 
imagined that it still had to deal with the same 
irresponsible colonials. It did nothing. Sir Thomas 
Mcllwraith, Premier of Queensland, thereupon annexed 
New Guinea upon his own responsibility. Downing 
Street repudiated his action. Mcllwraith then invited 
the Governments of the other Australian colonies to con- 
sider “the higher forms of government required to give 
effect to this policy of annexation. ” By this road the six 
colonies moved towards the Australian Commonwealth. 
Moreover, an intercolonial convention met to consider 
the emergency. It demanded that no foreign Power 
should be permitted to annex territory south of the 
Equator ; it called upon Great Britain to annex New 
Guinea ; above all, it pledged the Australians to pay 
“ such share of the cost incurred in giving effect to the 
resolutions as Her Majesty’s Government, having regard 
to the relative importance of Imperial and Australasian 
interests, may deem fair and reasonable.” This is the 
first occasion on which a representative body of re- 
sponsible Australian statesmen pledged their countrymen 
to undertake a national obligation. There is in this docu- 

Foreign Policy 245 

ment no protest about rights ; it did not occur to the 
Premiers that Australia’s share of the burden and Great 
Britain’s share might be apportioned (as they would be 
to-day) by the free negotiations of equals. The omission 
is irrelevant. The enjoyment of rights is not a cause but 
an effect of freedom. In 1919 the world recognised 
Australia’s rights because she had, during the war, 
accepted her obligations. And so it was in New Guinea. 
In 1884 Bismarck outwitted the British Government, and 
Great Britain secured only the southern half of New 
Guinea, the territory named Papua. Great Britain 
appointed the administrator of this protectorate ; but 
all the Australian colonies except one contributed to the 
cost of government, and Queensland had a considerable 
share in its responsibilities. The administrator, Sir 
William Macgregor, wrote, after he had retired: “In 
my humble opinion, the efforts made by the contributing 
colonies for the Papuan are conspicuous in the history 
of British colonisation.” But this does not end the story. 
In 1906 the Commonwealth of Australia accepted full 
responsibility for Papua. Since that date an Australian 
Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Hubert Murray, has more 
than upheld the fine tradition begun by Sir William Mac- 
gregor. Australia has won great honour in Papua. In 
1919 she was able to cite her record there as a witness 
that she was fit to hold additional territory in New 
Guinea as “a sacred trust for civilisation.” In the 
Mandated Territory, however, her administration has 
not yet reached the standard set by Sir Hubert Murray 
and his assistants in Papua. The Commonwealth, it 
must be confessed, has been rather stingy, and its admini- 
stration has continued too long in the improvised pidgin- 
English style which appeared in its first proclamation : 
“. . , Me been talk with you now, now you give three 



cheers belongina new feller master. No more um Kaiser. 
God save um King.” Perhaps we made a mistake in 
refusing to unite the administrations of the Mandated 
Territory and Papua. For what we have lacked is experi- 
ence. We have hitherto found it difficult to discover 
sufficient men who have had the training demanded by 
this special kind of work. Our record, nevertheless, is 
moderately good. We have at least had no difficulty in 
satisfying the Permanent Mandates Commission of the 
League of Nations. 

In defence policy it is possible to trace the same tran- 
sition from colonial irresponsibility to national indepen- 
dence, although in recent years there may have been 
some tendency to relapse into colonialism. “No com- 
munity which is not charged with the ordinary business of 
its own defence,” declared Gladstone in 1851, “is really 
or can be in the full sense of the word a free community. 
The privilege of freedom and the burden of freedom are 
absolutely associated together, and to bear the burden 
is as necessary as to enjoy the privilege, in order to form 
that character which is the first security of freedom 
itself. ’ ’ The best men in Australia have always accepted 
this true doctrine of self-reliance. George Higinbotham 
formally asserted it, in 1869, as an essential part of his 
programme of radical nationalism. Higinbotham fought 
colonialism wherever he saw it — whether in the Colonial 
Office or in the Victorian Assembly — and prepared the 
way for the nationalism of Deakin and the pre-war Labour 
party. It was Australian radicalism which accepted the 
"burden of freedom” in the name of the Austr alian 
nation. Throughout the earlier decades which followed 
the rise of the Australian colonies to self-government, 
Downing Street favoured a division of responsibility which 
would leave to the colonies control of local garrisons and 

Foreign Policy 247 

coastal defences, and leave to Great Britain the effective 
defence of the whole Empire. But the colonies made 
themselves into a Commonwealth, and the Common- 
wealth, having made a challenging policy, demanded the 
right to defend that policy. This right the British Govern- 
ment was reluctant to concede. It was becoming increas- 
ingly evident that none of the special interests within the 
Empire could be separated from the world-wide issues 
which must be decided in the North Sea. In the earlier 
years of the twentieth century, British strategists insisted 
on the need for centralising Imperial defence. But the 
Australians had learnt too well the doctrine of immediate 
responsibility. At the Colonial Conference of 1902 the 
Australian Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, agreed 
that the Commonwealth should pay £200,000 a year 
towards the maintenance of a British squadron in Austra- 
lian waters, and that it should in addition raise the crews 
for four British vessels. Australian patriots denounced 
this arrangement as an humiliation. ‘ ‘ Its only logical 
defence,” declared the Bulletin, “lies in the theory that 
Australia is a poor, forsaken country, without administra- 
tive brains, courage, enterprise, or intelligence, not fit: 
to have any dignified part in its own defence, worthy only 
to drudge for the money . . . and to provide the lob- 
lolly boys, the slushes, and the deck-swabbers.” In 1907 
Deakin withstood the Imperial strategists at the Im- 
perial Conference, and returned to Australia with a pro- 
gramme of “ships altogether Australian in cost and in 
political control . . . both in peace and war.” Fisher’s 
Labour Governments carried out that programme, for it 
was Labour’s programme also. This sturdy Labour party 
counted the cost of its policies. It compelled the young 
men of Australia to enrol for the defence of Australia’s 
frontiers — those ideal frontiers of racial self-consciousness 



and democratic resolve which had been built by legislation 
of Australia’s Parliaments. It was ready to defend those 
frontiers in the Pacific. In 19x4 it pledged itself to defend 
them, ‘ ‘ to the last man and the last shilling, ’ ’ against 
enemies in Europe. During the war Australia’s volunteer 
armies suffered casualties heavier than those which were 
suffered by the forces of any other Dominion or of the 
United States of America. Australia’s destiny depended 
on the survival of the British Empire, but she made no 
grudging calculation of her special interests : as a free 
Commonwealth she was ready to spend herself in a 
common cause. Even from the point of view of strict 
naval strategy she vindicated her policy against the old 
misgivings of a cautious Admiralty. That same policy, 
with its insistence upon national responsibility, enabled 
her to put her armies quickly and effectively into the field. 
The system of compulsory military training had given her 
what the early champions of national defence had 
demanded — ‘ ‘ a framework into which the fighting 
material of the nation can be fitted when the emergency 
arises.” And this was the work of a Labour Government. 

In 1929 another Labour Government suspended the 
system of compulsory military training. The reasons for 
its action were complex, and they reflect a phase in 
Australian opinion about which it would be rash to dogma- 
tise. Underlying the elections of 1929 were the economic 
crisis and a shrinkage of about 10 per cent, in the national 
income. Labour had in effect promised that this shrinkage 
would not adversely affect the ordinary man’s ‘ ' standard 
of living ” or chance of obtaining employment. The first 
problem which the new Government had to face was the 
problem of finance. Its first action was to economise at 
the expense of the defence department. In 1927-28 the 
Australians had spent on defence (exclusive of naval con- 

Foreign Policy 249 

struction and other items paid for out of loan) 17s. 4d. 
per head of the population. There was a chance to save 
money here. 

The decision to sweep away compulsory military train- 
ing was, however, more than a mere financial expedient. 
In the first place, there were in Australia widespread mis- 
givings as to the technical efficiency of the system. Many 
Australians said : “ The system is a farce ; we are not 
getting our money’s worth.” In the second place, there 
was in the Labour movement an almost universal objection 
to the principle of the system. In 1916 the Labour party 
ejected the politicians who advocated an extension of the 
principle of compulsion to meet a war-time emergency ; 
in 1916 and 1917 Australian democracy rejected the 
Government’s conscription proposals, and thereby ap- 
proved the arguments of the Labour party. Thus the 
A.I.F. remained, to the very end of the war, an army of 
volunteers. Ever since the conscription referenda Labour 
has been determined to take the first opportunity of ensur- 
ing that both home defence and foreign defence should 
be based on the volunteer principle. And, in the third 
place, Labour looks forward to the triumph of inter- 
nationalist idealism. Towards the end of the war the party 
became strongly pacifist. It came to recognise the war 
as but another episode in ‘ ‘ the old game, for ever dis- 
credited, of the balance of power.” And what concern 
had Australia with that game ? What concern had she 
(except in the Pacific and in the question of “racial 
equality”) with the fears and ambitions which jostled 
each other in the world’s peace conferences ? Her con- 
cern, surely, was with the new civilisation which the 
League of Nations promised. Labour supports those 
idealists who are ready to risk a partial and dubious 
national security in order to win the higher security of 



world peace. Labour believes that a demonstration of 
Australia’s peaceful intentions will count for something. 
Surely it is futile for every nation to hang back and wait 
for its neighbours to set an example. Some nation must 
have the courage to gamble. 

No nation, however, should gamble with other people’s 
money. It is necessary that we should be clear about our 
burdens, our liabilities. Bismarck would have called 
Australia a “sated” country. We need no new con- 
quests. All that we want is the monopoly of a continent. 
We have safeguarded our monopoly by our immigration 
legislation and by seizing a strategical frontier in the 
Pacific. These are the pledges of our security, and, so 
far as they are concerned, there is complete unanimity 
and unbroken continuity in our policy. Labour, at world 
migration conferences, defends the same great national 
interests which Mr. Hughes defended at Paris, and 
defends them with equal fervour. For these are not party 
questions. As a nation we have something to defend, for 
we belong to the fortunate peoples of the earth. It is 
difficult to believe that the time will ever come when we 
shall have nothing to defend. If the League of Nations 
succeeds it will hardly abolish power (for that is not its 
aim) , but it will abolish war, which is the crudest and most 
brutal instrument of power. If it achieves this we shall still 
have to defend ourselves, by co-operation with our friends, 
by economic power, by diplomatic skill, and by maintain- 
ing the mental and moral qualities which compensate for 
our inferiority of numbers. A reduction of our armed 
forces may be either a step forward or a step backwards ; 
everything depends upon the condition of the world and 
upon what we put in the place of our sunken ships and 
dismissed soldiers. If we were to put nothing in their 
place we should be dropping our burdens and expecting 

Foreign Policy 351 

some patron or protector to pick them up. We should, 
in effect, be saying : “ Let the British Navy defend us 
until such time as Europe and Asia and America organise 
the world for peace. We, however, will not contribute to 
that organisation except by our shining example, for the 
world is still wicked, and it will be safer for us to hold 
aloof from it. Meanwhile ... let the British Navy 
defend us.” 

There is, however, no real danger of our relapsing into 
this colonialism. The history of our advance to nation- 
hood has been unbroken. Since the war our advance has 
been so rapid that we have not yet understood all that it 
implies. But there is no prospect of our turning back-. 
We have already established direct and equal contact 
with the world’s nations. The basic facts of our national 
life make it impossible for us to sink into a virtuous and 
white isolation. 

Australia’s future is, to a considerable degree, bound 
up with the future of the Pacific ; but a good deal of 
nonsense is talked about that rather over-rated ocean. 
Some of the countries bordering the Pacific have special 
problems which may lend themselves to a “regional” 
solution, but the Pacific is not a closed system separable 
from the rest of the world. Nor is it, as is sometimes 
suggested, “the world’s centre of gravity.” Newtonian- 
ism in politics is surely out of date ! The new situatiofi 
which statesmen had to understand after the war has been 
accurately defined by Professor Toynbee: “that the 
world as a whole had become what only Europe had been 
before — that is, a one and indivisible field of international 
action.” The Pacific was until recent times a backwater ; 
it is one no longer. A glance at the map is sufficient to 



show the absurdity of thinking of it as a mare clausum. 
Of the great Powers which belong to it, only one, Japan, 
belongs to it exclusively. China is not yet a great Power. 
Russia belongs to Europe and to Asia ; she has blundered 
everywhere looking for free access to the sea, and may 
expect in the east opposition scarcely less bitter than that 
which she has had to face in Europe. The United States 
of America belongs to two oceans. The British Empire 
belongs to all the oceans. France is a great Power whose 
strength is concentrated in and near Europe. All this 
means diversity and dispersion. These characteristics are 
at once apparent in the trading activities of the Pacific 
countries. Most of them are more concerned with extra- 
Pacific trade than they are with intra-Pacific trade. Japan 
and China carry on respectively 65 per cent, and 58 per 
cent, of their trade with Pacific neighbours ; but only 
30 per cent, of the trade of the United States, 30 per 
cent, of Australia’s, and 29 per cent, of New Zealand’s, 
is in the Pacific. 

It is true that commercial relations between the Pacific 
countries are rapidly becoming closer. This is particularly 
true of Australia. British exporters have been able to 
increase the volume of their sales in Australia, but they 
have been unable to maintain old margins of predomin- 
ance over rival countries. In 1913-14 Australia received 
52-4 per cent, of her imports from the United Kingdom 
and 13-9 per cent, of them from the United States ; in 
1927-28 she received 42-65 per cent, from the United 
Kingdom and 23-66 per cent, from the United States. 
The following figures will give a fairly just picture of 
Australia's commercial relationships in recent years. 

Foreign Policy 

25 3 

Trade of Australia with Certain Countries 


Imports . 


Per Cent 

Per Cent. 

United Kingdom 



British possessions 



Total British 

55 ' 7 o 7 





N etherlands East Indies . . . 















United States ... 



Total foreign countries ... 


5 i -47 

These percentages show that Australia’s Pacific trade, 
although increasing, is very far from being her chief 
concern. She has practically no trade eastward to South 
America. Within the Pacific generally, and especially in 
her dealings with the United States of America, she has 
a very large excess of imports over exports. Japan is a 
good customer — about as good as Germany, but not so 
good as France. China buys little from Australia and sells 
little to her. There are other Pacific countries which 
might have come into the picture, but the aim of this 
table has been to suggest, rather than to catalogue, 
Australia’s trade relations with the outside world. 
Economically, Australia still remains joined to Europe, 
where her best markets lie. This economic interest implies 
some sort of a political interest in the affairs of Europe, 
of the Mediterranean, and of Egypt. 


3 54 

There is among foreigners an extraordinary misconcep- 
tion of the realities of Australia’s position in the world. 
One example must suffice. “As the bonds of Empire 
weaken, ’’ writes Mr. Nicholas Rooseveldt in his book, 
The Restless Pacific, “ the ties that bind the Dominions 
to the United States will strengthen. We four are of the 
new world, blessed with the material foundations of cul- 
tural greatness and fortunate in having vigorous, healthy 
populations.” But why should Australia loosen old and 
proved ties in order to undertake the difficult and uncer- 
tain task of joining herself by new ties to a new system ? 
No doubt Mr. Rooseveldt does not contemplate any con- 
stitutional contract nor even an ' ' entangling alliance ’ ’ ; 
he is thinking vaguely of reciprocal benevolence. But 
for a completely independent and isolated Australia this 
would not be enough. And could the United States give 
to Australia the security which she now enjoys in virtue 
of her honourable co-operation with her fellow-members 
of the British Commonwealth ? Could the American Navy 
protect Australia’s trade routes in the Indian Ocean, the 
Red Sea, and the Mediterranean? It is true that both 
the United States and Australia are interested in restrict- 
ing Asiatic immigration, but it is strategically impossible 
for the United States to prevent an Asiatic descent upon 
Australian coasts. It is even possible to imagine circum- 
stances in which a descent upon Australia would be 
tolerated by the United States, as a guarantee of their own 
immunity. All these imaginings are fantastic and perhaps 
uncalled-for, but so is the initial speculation. It is absurd 
to imagine that Australia, because she buys American 
motor-cars and submits to the deluge of Hollywood 
culture, is drifting vaguely towards some new political 
combination. It is, indeed, very easy to exaggerate the 
sympathy which “the vigorous, healthy populations ” of 

Foreign Policy 255 

Australia and the United States feel for each other. 
Superficial observers draw political deductions from the 
similarity between California and Australia’s Pacific 
Slope ; but this very similarity makes the two countries 
competitors. The fact that American and Australian 
farmers have to grapple with the same difficulties does 
not make them especially affectionate one to another ; 
if the American wheat-growers were to extract from 
Congress the subsidies on export which they so greatly 
desire they would ruin thousands of Australian farmers, 
and perhaps drive the Commonwealth to a retaliation 
which it cannot afford. Again, both Australia and the 
United States are high-protection countries ; but this 
resemblance of their economic policies is not a bond 
between them. Recently there have been bitter protests 
in Australia, as in Canada, against the United States 
tariff. Australian national sentiment (not always reason- 
ably) resents the fact that America sells so much to 
Australia and buys so little in return. It is true that 
Australian manufacturers sometimes show rather a wistful 
interest in American business methods. But Australian 
working-men show an emphatic dislike of those methods. 
Australian democracy feels a real and instinctive sympathy 
with English democracy, which, with its trade unions and 
Labour party, seems similar to the Australian model ; but 
American democracy seems to follow an entirely different 
model, so that Australian trade unionists are apt to sus- 
pect that it is not democracy at all. Added to this is a 
strong feeling of racial individuality. America has too 
many foreigners and hybrids ! The Australians are pas- 
sionately convinced of their rightness in keeping them- 
selves “ninety-eight per cent. British,’’ and look with 
suspicion and dislike upon the experiment of the “melt- 


25 6 

These observations (as well as others which might be 
made) will seem to Australians almost unnecessarily 
obvious. Australia is prepared to do what she can to 
strengthen the friendship of English-speaking peoples 
as a necessity for the world’s peace. But her habits, her 
interests, her sympathies, and her honour, all combine to 
keep her within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It 
is necessary to consider, as briefly as possible, what her 
membership of the British Commonwealth means. 

* * * * # 

It means, first of all, that Australia is a free country, 
with unfettered rights of self-government, a national 
status recognised by foreign nations, and a distinct per- 
sonality in International Law. 

The last phrase raises intricate problems of legal 
definition. But the salient facts of Australia’s position 
among the nations of the world may be easily gathered 
from a short historical inquiry. Australia, like the other 
self-governing Dominions, has completed her progress 
along the road which Lord Durham’s report on Canada 
mapped out less than a hundred years ago. Lord 
Durham’s report indicated the direction, but not the goal, 
of colonial self-government ; for not even the most radical 
of Englishmen would have dared, in 1839, to imagine a 
time when the King’s Dominions beyond the seas should 
be “ subject to no compulsion whatever.” Lord Durham 
explicitly reserved for Imperial control the Constitutions 
and foreign relations of the colonies, the trade beyond 
their borders, and even the waste lands within their 
borders. Yet within twenty years the Australian colonies 
had gained the right to control their own waste lands 
and to amend their Constitutions. But could Great Britain 
surrender the other two powers ? If colonial self-govern- 

Foreign Policy 257 

ment resembled in every respect British self-government, 
surely the unity of the Empire would be at an end? 
"There are some cases," declared Lord John Russell, 

' ' in which the force of these objections is so manifest 
that those who at first made no distinction between the 
Constitution of the United Kingdom and that of the 
colonies admit their strength. I allude to the questions of 
foreign war and international relations, whether in trade 
or diplomacy. ’ ’ 

Until 1846 the British Empire had been a single 
economic unit in its commercial relations, with a Protec- 
tionist policy made in Great Britain. In 1846 Great Britain 
became a Free Trade country. But she still assumed that 
the Empire would remain a commercial unity, with a 
common Free Trade policy. The self-governing colonies 
thought otherwise. In 1859 Canada asserted her right to 
set up a Protectionist tariff, even against Great Britain. 
In 1873 the Australian colonies asserted their right to 
discriminate in favour of each other, even to the dis- 
advantage of other parts of the Empire. It was not long 
before the new order of things began to affect the foreign 
relations of the Empire. In the seventies the Australian 
colonies won recognition of their right to adhere 
separately to trade treaties made by Great Britain, or, 
if it pleased them, not to adhere at all. Later on they 
exercised a right of withdrawing from trade treaties which 
Great Britain had negotiated in the past. Finally they 
began, in association with British representatives, to 
negotiate their own treaties. The Commonwealth to-day 
is party to many treaties which deal with commerce, 
postal affairs, scientific and humanitarian concerns, and 
all sorts of technical matters. At last, in 1907, Canada 
negotiated a commercial treaty with France, without any 
intervention at all of British officials. That event marked 


258 Australia, 

the end of the process. Before the war the self-governing 
Dominions could bargain with foreign countries, in com- 
mercial matters, on terms of complete equality and in- 
dependence. . 

Within this century there has been a somewhat similar 
development with regard to diplomacy and the political 
relations of the Dominions with the outside world. Thirty 
, years ago Australia was content to leave her foreign 
relations entirely in the hands of Great Britain. Australia, 
declared Sir Edmund Barton, was “For the Empire, 
right or wrong.’’ It was in this spirit that Australia sent 
contingents to fight in the South African War. But at 
the conclusion of that war Australian statesmen were 
shocked by the introduction of Asiatic labour into South 
Africa’s mines, and claimed their right, as an integral 
portion of the British community,’’ to speak on British 
policy. “ My main contention,’’ declared the leader of 
the Labour party, “is that we have a partnership in- 
terest in South Africa.” “We were told at the outbreak 
of hostilities,” cried Deakin, “. . . that it was a war for 
the miners of the Transvaal. If the authorities had gone 
on to say that it was a war for Chinese miners, what a 
different aspect it would have worn ! . . . We should 
have said : ‘ Keep your mines ; your cheapness is too 
dearly purchased. It is not to be bought with, blood.’ 
No Empire can be made strong by such means. Here 
was, in effect, a demand that Imperial policy should be 
acceptable to Australian sentiment. It was an intimation 
that Australia would not for ever follow blindly. In 191 1 
the British Government expounded to the Dominion 
Prime Ministers the Empire’s diplomatic and strategic 
position ; but Mr. Asquith positively asserted that Great 
Britain could not share the control of high policy. Then 
came the war. It brought home to the statesmen of the 

Foreign Policy 259 

Dominions a realisation of the fact that, in the supreme 
issues of policy, their countries were dependencies. For 
the future they demanded for their peoples complete self- 
government and control of their own destiny. They affixed 
their signatures to the peace treaty. The Dominions be- 
came original members of the League of Nations. Canada 
to-day enjoys a temporary seat on the Council of the 
League, not because she is a member of the British 
Commonwealth, but because she has been chosen by the 
smaller nations of the world as their representative. 
Canada has sent ambassadors to represent her in Wash- 
ington, Tokio, and Paris. Australia, if she chose to, 
could do the same. In foreign affairs, as in home affairs, 
she has in fact complete control of her own destiny. 
She is not bound by British treaties to which she does 
not choose to adhere. She is bound only by the signatures 
of her own accredited agents. Conversely, she may, if 
she chooses, negotiate political treaties for herself. 
Treaty-making is a very complicated procedure, but none 
of the technicalities of this procedure can obscure the 
essential fact that Australia is in every way free to do 
her own business in the world. 

All this involves a new principle within the British 
Empire. In the old days there existed within the Empire 
different degrees of dependence upon Great Britain. At 
the present time some members of the Empire have the 
status of dependencies and others the status of equals. 
It is possible to suggest these distinctions in an inclusive 
phrase. Australia belongs to “the British Common- 
wealth within the British Empire.” 

But is the formation of this Commonwealth within the 
Empire consistent with the survival of the Empire as a 
real community, exercising effective power in a dis- 
ordered world ? One thing the British Empire obviously 



is not — an economic unit. It has been one of the most 
persistent ambitions of the British Dominions to organise 
themselves as separate national economic units. En- 
thusiastic Englishmen have sometimes attempted to put 
back the clock to 1846. Thirty years ago Chamberlain 
declared: "Our first object is free trade within the 
Empire.” But the first object soon gave place to a 
second object, the best to a second-best. The vision of 
an Imperial Zollverein soon faded into the nearer but 
foggier vision of Imperial Preference. At the Imperial 
Conference of 1907 it was an Australian, Alfred Deakin, 
who struggled most eagerly to capture that vision. For 
to Australia Chamberlain’s second-best seemed the 
highest good. The ideal of an Imperial Zollverein was 
unacceptable to Australia, because it meant that she must 
remove her duties against British goods. The ideal of 
Imperial Preference was acceptable to her, because it 
offered her own goods a privileged place in the British 
market, and at the same time permitted her, even en- 
couraged her, to raise her duties against British goods. 
For so far as she was concerned Australia intended to 
achieve preference, not by lowering her tariff, but by 
raising it. Deakin introduced a measure of preference 
in 1908. Hitherto (the description is exceedingly 
generalised) British manufacturers had been compelled to 
reckon with a 12-^ per cent, tariff schedule. For the 
future they would have to reckon with a 20 per cent, 
tariff schedule. Foreigners, however, would have to 
reckon with a 25 per cent, schedule. The range of the 
preference granted in 1908 covered about 60 per cent, of 
Australia’s imports from Great Britain. Since 1908 there 
have been various revisions and increases of the pre- 
ferential duties ; within the same period the Australian 
tariff has been seven times raised against all external 

Foreign Policy 261 

competitors, of whom the British are chief. The aim of 
Australia is to encourage the British manufacturer at the 
expense of the foreign manufacturer, but at the same 
time to encourage the Australian manufacturer at the 
expense both of the foreign and the British manufacturer. 
Of these two aims, the latter is the really essential one. 
The preferences which the Australians grant are “a con- 
cession to sentiment which is not allowed to interfere with 
business.” The concession to sentiment is something 
very real, and attempts are sometimes made to measure 
its cash value. But it is so easy to fall from sentiment 
into wrangling. Are the preferences which Great Britain 
grants on \ per cent, of her imports a fair return for the 
preferences which Australia grants over the whole range 
of her imports ? Are Australian preferences a fair return 
to Great Britain for the benefits which Australia receives 
from the research and advertising activities of the Empire 
Marketing Board, from the acceptance of Australian 
stocks as trustee securities, and from British expenditure 
on the defence of Australia’s trade routes and general 
security ? All these questions, in the present context, are 
irrelevant. Nor would it be relevant to forecast the 
dubious economic advantages to Australia of a substantial 
extension of reciprocal preference. This matter has been 
very interestingly treated in the published report of the 
expert committee on The Australian Tariff. The present 
argument is concerned only with the reality of the British 
Commonwealth as a community. Australia most em- 
phatically does not intend it to be a single economic 
community. Historically, Australia's preferences have 
not aimed at an Imperial Zollverein, but in an entirely 
opposite direction. Australia would not join an economic 
union or even an economic federal union. But she would 
not be reluctant, even now, to think of herself as a 



partner in a kind of economic confederation. She is a 
separate economic unit in close collaboration with Great 
Britain. This collaboration creates an intricate network 
joining private individuals, great industrial groups, and 
even public authorities. There are opportunities here 
for fruitful economic statesmanship. 

The British Commonwealth remains a political com- 
munity. It is a communitas communitatum. Lord John 
Russell was right in anticipating that the principle of 
responsible government, if unchecked by any other prin- 
ciple, would lead to the disruption of the Empire. But 
the principle of responsible government has been checked 
by the monarchical principle. While the members of the 
British Commonwealth have been becoming distinct 
persons in international law, their own constitutional law 
has preserved the essential bonds which unite them to 
each other. Australia has international relations with 
foreign countries, but her relations with Greaf Britain or 
New Zealand are not international relations : they are 
constitutional relations. The Crown, and the common 
nationality which results from our common allegiance to 
the Crown, are more than symbols or phrases : they are 
primary facts of our political life. It is easy to under- 
stand, without becoming enmeshed in legal subtleties, 
that the Crown stands for our common security and 
common liability. For when the King is at war all his 
subjects are at war. We could, of course, renounce our 
allegiance to the King and choose the harried life of a 
neutral Power ; we could say to Great Britain and Canada 
and New Zealand: “We shall not help you to fight 
your battles, and we do not expect you to help us fight 
our battles.” Or we might try to make the best of both 
worlds, and, if a war broke out, content ourselves with 
passive belligerency. But the King’s enemies might 

Foreign Policy 263 

decide to be actively belligerent against us, and we 
should find that we had forfeited our self-respect, 
incurred the resentment of our sister Dominions, 3x16 
involved ourselves in bitter internal strife (for the nation 
would have no single opinion on this matter) all to no 
purpose. Of course, if the war were a very small one 
and the immediate concern of a single member of the 
British Commonwealth, the other members (even Great 
Britain herself) might be content with passive belliger- 
ency. Nothing more might be expected of them. But 
if there is to be another world war there will in all prob- 
ability be no non-combatants and no neutrals. In these 
circumstances the discussions about passive belligerency 
appear to be academic. 

The time may perhaps come when speculations about 
another world war will also be academic. The vision of 
perpetual peace is very attractive to Australian demo- 
cracy. And Australia, because she is a member of the 
British Commonwealth within the British Empire, may 
exercise an influence disproportionate to her present 
actual strength in helping to make this vision a reality. 
Australia has everything to lose by war. The British 
Empire has everything to lose by war. It has liabilities 
in every quarter of the globe. It is, as it were, a cross- 
section of humanity. It acts as interpreter between 
Europe and Asia, between Europe and America, between 
Asia and the South Seas. In Canada and South Africa 
it has achieved what the League of Nations is seeking 
to achieve in Europe — the reconciliation of races. At 
this critical and ambiguous stage of the world's history 
the failure of the British Commonwealth would mean the 
failure of the League. And the failure of the League 
might mean the failure of the British Commonwealth. 

Every self-governing member of the British Common- 

264 Australia 

wealth has its own problems of foreign affairs, for which 
it is primarily responsible. But it would be wrong to 
imagine that the special problems of one member are of 
no interest to the others. To consider the problem of 
security : Great Britain is to-day less secure (in the 
military sense) than she has ever been, for man’s mastery 
of the air has made her part of the European continent, 
destroying her secular insularity. This new weakness of 
Great Britain is very much our concern, because (to 
choose one reason out of many) we still very largely 
depend on Great Britain for our defence. Canada, on 
the other hand, owing to the increased power of the 
United States, is even more secure in the present than 
she has been in the past. For she enjoys a double 
guarantee — her membership of the Empire and her un- 
guarded southern frontier. Only one event could threaten 
her security — hostility between the British Empire and 
the United States. It is the foundation of Canada’s 
policy to avert this possibility. She plays the part of 
interpreter between the British Empire and the United 
States. And this, too, is very much our concern. There 
was a striking example of this fact in 1920-21, when 
Canadian influence was very largely instrumental in pre- 
venting the renewal (advocated by the Australian Govern- 
ment) of the Anglo- Japanese Alliance, and in preparing 
the way for something less exclusive — the Four Power 
Treaty signed at Washington. 

The strategical position of Australia is less secure 
than that of any other member of the British Common- 
wealth except New Zealand. Australia’s physical vulner- 
ability, her close economic relationship with Great 
Britain, and her intense British race-consciousness, have 
made her less eager than some other Dominions to claim 
every fact and form of national status. Perhaps we do 

Foreign Policy 265 

not yet completely realise in Australia that we act as a 
nation and that the world accepts us as a nation. We 
are free to do our own business in the world. In peace 
(and this is the normal relation of States) we stand upon 
our own feet. In war, should it come, we must also 
stand upon our own feet. This does not mean that we 
stand alone. We are, politically, a Nation, but we belong 
to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Thus we have 
a double responsibility. We must count the cost of our 
policies to ourselves. We must also count their cost to 
others. And we expect the same consideration from our 
associates. We shall stand by them, but only if they 
play fair ; they will stand by us, but only if we play fair. 
This is the moral basis of the “unwritten treaty of 
mutual assistance ’ ’ which binds together the free mem- 
bers of the British Commonwealth. It is a new applica- 
tion of the old principle, “What touches all must be 
approved by all.” Supposing that one Dominion rushed 
into danger without consulting its fellows, and then ex- 
pected them to come to its rescue ? It would be flouting 
the principle of freedom and responsibility upon which 
its own civilisation is built. It would be committing a 
crime equal to any in the history of the secret diplomacy 
of despots. 

The effective unity of the British Commonwealth there- 
fore demands consultation and co-operation between the 
free and equal communities which compose it. The prin- 
ciple of free co-operation is rapidly elaborating appro- 
priate conventions and institutions. Australia is ready to 
do her share in the common work. Every Australian 
party and Government accepts Australia’s membership 
of the British Commonwealth. The conditions of mem- 
bership, which to foreigners seem so preposterous, are 
in reality very simple. An Australian Prime Minister, 



Andrew Fisher, long ago illuminated the significance of 
our relationship when he described the free communities 
of the British Empire as "a family of nations.” As 
nations we are independent. As a family we are members 
one of another. On this basis our unique political fellow- 
ship maintains itself as one of the major realities of the 
modem world. 






Nearly one hundred years have passed since Alexis de 
Tocqueville tried to explain to cultivated Europeans the 
characteristics of democracy in a "new ” country. Lord 
Bryce once wrote an essay comparing Tocqueville’ s 
America with the America of latter days, and concluded 
that his brilliant generalisations were, generally speaking, 
out of date. But they are not out of date for Australia. 
Tocqueville’s observations on American society are 
stimulating, even when they do not quite fit the Austra- 
lian facts. Australians could attempt no more useful 
exercise than to read through Democracy in America, 
asking themselves : Is this true of Australia? To what 
extent is it irrelevant ? 

There are, of course, striking contrasts between 
Australia and America — even the America of one 
hundred years ago — which make the exercise almost a 
dangerous one. America had been colonised when English 
society was still aristocratic and rural ; it had been the 
prize for which two Empires struggled ; it had vindicated 
its independence in two wars. No less striking than these 
social and political contrasts are the emphatic geograph- 
ical peculiarities of the two countries. Nevertheless, 
Tocqueville’s America resembles our own Australia in 
this : that it was a vast half-occupied country still being 
overrun by vigorous invaders of British stock. What 
most impressed Tocqueville, who came from a country 
where life (despite the violence of political revolution) 



still remained formalised within its old framework, was 
the incessant movement, the collapse of hereditary 
stability and standards, the fluidity of fortune and family 
in the New World. “Amongst democratic nations new 
families are constantly springing up, others are con- 
stantly falling away, and all that remain change their 
condition ; the woof of time is every instant broken, and 
the track of generations effaced.” In Europe — even in 
democratised Europe — the track of generations is never 
quite effaced ; men will continue to revere ancestry, even 
if it is not their own. But in America (so Tocqueville 
thought) there existed ‘ ‘ an instinctive distaste for the 
past.” And in Australia defiance of “the truculent, 
narcotic, and despotic past” has always been one of 
the most popular themes of forward-looking democracy. 
“Australia is the whole world’s legatee”— so say the 
poets ; but the Australian carelessly accepts his inherit- 
ance and thinks no more of former generations. 

“ While with the Past old nations merge 
His foot is on the Future’s verge.” 

Liberated from the congealed ice-forms of convention 
and class which are packed so tightly in a small northern 
island, the vigorous flow of Australian life cuts ever- 
changing channels for the irrigation of limitless virgin 
plains. Society in Australia is not yet fixed and for- 
malised. Men do not find it difficult to change their 
house or town or class. There is no class except in the 
economic sense. In each State there are perhaps a dozen 
families who have possessed wealth for two generations 
or more ; but they have no more authority than other 
rich men, and have not imposed upon the Australians 
standards of conduct and culture. The parallel still holds 
with Tocqueville’ s America. “There is no class, then, 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 271 

in America in which the taste for intellectual pleasure is 
transmitted with hereditary fortune and leisure and by 
which the labours of the intellect are held in honour.” 
These very phrases sound strange to Australian ears. 
Hereditary fortune and leisure ! The Australians have 
not had time to think of that. What they have aimed at 
is the effective occupation of their continent at the 
quickest possible speed. They will not rest until they 
have staked their indisputable claim. Not that all Austra- 
lians — or even very many of them — are adventurous 
pioneers. The waves of pioneering which rush and break 
into ” better country farther out ” are the overflow from 
bays of settlement in which there is a surface quiet. 
Here, for forty years or more, Australian democracy has 
been trying to freeze itself into the stillness of an isolated 
pond. Its efforts are vain. The flimsy breakwaters of 
provincial prohibitions are constantly breached by the 
ocean swell of the world’s impatient energy, and life, 
even in Melbourne or Sydney, is everlastingly agitated 
by the ebb and flow of adventure on the margins of 
Australian settlement. 

Australia has been too much glorified by simple 
patriots, who imagine that civilisation started with the 
voyages of Captain Cook, and too much vilified by 
splenetic tourists of the English middle classes, -who fail 
to find in Tumburumba the mild amenities of Tunbridge 
Wells. In this petty bickering of rival provincialisms 
the historical necessities are ignored. One party pretends 
too much and the other demands too much. Nations do 
not bring forth abundantly the flowers of civilisation until 
their roots have struck deep. The Australians, like the 
Americans of a century ago, are still preoccupied with 
useful things. “The aspect of American society,” said 
Tocqueville, "is animated, because men and things are 



always changing ; but it is monotonous, because these 
changes are always alike.” The changes to which he 
refers are changes of fortune, which are certainly not 
monotonous to those who experience them ; on the con- 
trary, they are intensely exciting. To the philosopher, 
these innumerable individual fluctuations may appear to 
be a single series of uninteresting repetitions. But the 
mass of men has no leisure for philosophy, and, in newly 
occupied countries, it is the mass of men which fixes 
the accepted standard of values. 

De Tocqueville perceived that the Americans were 
everywhere content with a ' 1 middling standard” — in 
manners, morals, knowledge, and the arts. Science was 
directed towards practical ends. Religion dared not 
challenge the prevailing passion for well-being. As for 
education, the observer who wished to form a just opinion 
of it must consider it from two points of view. "If he 
only singles out the learned, he will be astonished to find 
how rare they are ; but if he counts the ignorant, the 
American people will appear to be the most enlightened 
in the world.” In literature, the annual production of the 
twenty-four States of the Union was inferior to that of 
some very second-rate European towns. In their inter- 
course with each other the citizens had neither the 
dignity which belongs to men whose address is suited 
to their station nor that unhappy blend of insolence and 
anxiety which may be observed in men who wish to 
maintain their proper station without knowing precisely 
what it is. The Americans were frank and unconstrained 
in their bearing towards each other because they were 
unconscious of any barriers between them. There were, 
of course, natural inequalities (as the Creator doubtless 
intended there should be), but the different capacities 
of men were submitted to the same methods of treat- 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 273 

ment. Each man considered that his own judgment was 
equal to that of his neighbour ; therefore, he placed little 
faith in his neighbour. But he was ready to place un- 
limited faith in the multitude ; for “ it would seem not 
probable, as they are all endowed with equal means of 
judging, but that the greater truth should go with the 
greater number.” To this gloomy conclusion Tocqueville 
returns again and again — that democracy means the 
tyranny of the multitude. ‘ ‘ Every man allows himself to 
be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not 
a person or a class of persons but the people at large 
that holds the chain.” 

This same “middling standard” is characteristic of 
democracy in Australia ; but in Australia there are two 
peculiar complications which did not exist in Tocqueville’s 
America. In the first place, Australia has never known 
effective local government. In the States of America 
administrative power was dispersed between central and 
local authorities ; but in the States of Australia local 
government is a late creation and forms no effective 
barrier between the isolated individual and the central 
power. In America the habit of local independence 
created the habit of free association, and to this very day 
Americans group themselves in countless propagandist 
organisations, which work independently and immedi- 
ately within society and upon it, and regard political 
party (it is M. Siegfried’s phrase) as “an indispensable 
tool and nothing more.” But in Australia the political 
parties have almost a monopoly in the manufacture of 
public opinion. Australia has known one great voluntary 
society, the Australian Natives’ Association , which 
played a decisive part in the awakening of Australian 
nationality and the making of the Commonwealth. But 
when its work was done, it relapsed into insignificance. 

! 18 



To-day, apart from the Press and one or two women’s 
organisations and the ‘ * temperance ’ ’ societies (which 
denounce temperance and preach prohibition), there is 
practically no propaganda except that of the political 
parties. The only notable non-political body in Australia 
(excluding the churches) is the Returned Soldiers’ 
League. As for the industrial and commercial associa- 
tions which exist in Australia, they are the constant 
victims or beneficiaries of political manipulation. A great 
part of the spontaneous energy of the Australians is 
spent in the pursuit of pleasure. The activities of the 
Australian people in almost every other department of 
life lose their clear outline in the universal smudge of 

The second contrast between Australia and the old 
America consists in the attitude generally adopted towards 
inequalities of fortune . “In America , ’ ’ said T ocqueville , 
“those complaints against property in general, which 
are so frequent in Europe, are never heard, because in 
America there are no paupers ; and as everyone has 
property of his own to defend, everyone recognises the 
principle upon which he holds it. ’ ’ There are no paupers 
in Australia, and nearly everybody has some property to 
defend ; but the air is rent by the complaints of those 
who have less against those who have more. The ex- 
planation is to be sought in circumstances of time and 
place. Australia was settled in the age of the Rights of 
Man and of the Communist Manifesto. Most of the 
early settlers had been sweated and soured by indus- 
trialism. To-day, when sixty-three out of every hundred 
Australians live in towns, migration is, for the majority of 
Englishmen, nothing more than a changing of factories 
or shops. They are still soured, though no longer 
sweated, by industrialism. It must be recognised that 

Some 'Aspects of Society in a “New ” Country 275 

hatred, in greater or less degree, is a normal by-product 
of industry in its present stage of development. But 
why should it be inflicted upon Australia in greater 
degree? It must not be imagined that there are more 
strikes or lock-outs in Australia than there are in other 
countries ; even since the war the English worker and 
the American trade unionist have gone on strike more 
frequently than has the Australian. But in Australia 
antagonism between employers and wage-earners is “in 
the atmosphere.” Its presence is very puzzling to the 
inquiring visitor. He sees few signs of suffering, and no 
sign at all of insolent wealth. There exists no caste which 
cannot easily be entered by vigorous men pushing up 
from below. The rich do not make themselves a target 
for popular envy by anything distinctive in their appear- 
ance, manners, speech, tastes, or recreations. In a 
society which has little fixity of family and fortune, 
intelligence and good manners may be found at any 
level ; and vulgarity is no less frequently observed in 
men whose incomes are large than in men whose incomes 
are moderate or small. But these are the very conditions 
which sharpen the irritation between employers and 
employed. There is frequently no visible reason why 
the former should command respect, nor why the latter 
should give it. In the absence of effective social barriers, 
men resent all the more the permanence of economic 
barriers. When all sorts and conditions of men pursue 
similar pleasures, the poorer will always be envious of 
the richer, for they envy things which they understand. 
Every man thinks that he is as good as another, and 
feels that he is hardly used because his pleasures are 
less. In Australia, somebody has said, every man thinks 
that he is twice as good as another. 

All this personal discontent finds political expression. 



Bryce described Australia correctly as “the country 
in -which material interests have most dominated 
politics.” How can this not be so, when approximately 
one breadwinner in every ten is in the employment either 
of the Federal Government or of a Sate Government, 
and when the policy pursued by Government enterprises 
directly touches the pockets of the vast majority of 
citizens? Moreover, when arbitration courts fix men’s 
wages to the last penny, and when the principle and 
detail of arbitration is an everlasting subject of political 
and constitutional argument, wages and the most minute 
details of the conditions of labour attain the dignity of a 
Public Question. Every economic difficulty is gener- 
alised as a political issue, with the double result that it 
becomes more difficult to solve, and more exasperating 
when it remains unsolved. Exasperation — that is the 
dominant note in the public life of the Australians, who 
are, in their private life, exceptionally good-natured and 
friendly. The Australians are perpetually exasperated 
because they perpetually pursue a quarry which they can 
never run to earth. They try to dispose of facts by 
parliamentary adjustment. Australian democracy has 
been cheated and flattered by the ease with which it 
conquered political power. It imagined that it could just 
as easily win economic power ; that it could just as easily 
democratise industry, that it could — an Australian poet 
has said it — “democratise the world.” Men really did 
believe, a generation ago, that the old oligarchies had 
of their- deliberate wickedness created all the evils which 
afflict society, and that Australia — ‘ ‘ this virgin and un- 
handicapped land of social experiments, embryoning 
democracy, and the Coming Race, Australia !” — would 
quickly lead the world to a millennium. It was a generous 
hope, which did credit to the idealism of the Australians, 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 277 

but not to their intelligence. They have long since ceased 
to believe in impossibilities, but out of sheer exaspera- 
tion and an angry obstinacy continue to pursue them. 
Government, being constantly overstrained, is constantly 
discredited. Almost everything is absorbed in politics ; 
but almost everybody believes those knowing fellows who 
say that politics is “ a dirty business.” This is precisely 
the danger of credulous idealism, that its disillusioned 
victims console themselves with an equally credulous 
cynicism. Australian idealism has put too many of its 
eggs into the political basket. When some of the eggs go 
bad their unpleasant odour penetrates into every corner 
of the national life and infects it with a faint disgust. 

Al. JA. 

W # W W 

As individuals, Australians are generally matter-of- 
fact people who distrust fine phrases and understand 
hard realities. But in politics they have been incurably 
romantic. Thus it happens that their private shrewdness 
is continually pricking the bubble of their public pretence. 
This tendency may be well illustrated by the history of 
the national capital. Canberra is interesting, both as a 
document of Australian life, and in itself ; its story is 
worth telling at length. 

Canberra has now become “ crazy city.” 1 Less than 
twenty years ago (when it was still paddocked hill and 
valley and there were no bills to pay) it was to be "a 
world’s centre of civic beauty and health,” the 11 City 
Beautiful,” the “ City of the Future.” 

"... Here a City shall arise 
That shall be the Pride of Time.” 

Where else than in Canberra, demanded one enthusiast, 
should meet the hoped-for Parliament of Man? ‘‘The 

1 Randolf Bedford in the Bulletin, September 18, 1929. 



location of this World’s Centre has not yet been 
determined ; but as it is to be the World’s City of Peace, 
what more appropriate location is there than Australia 
— the only continent that has never known war?” 1 It 
was part of the romantic make-believe of the time to 
pretend that Canberra was the spontaneous conception 
of aspiring national idealism. Perhaps the Australians 
would have been happier if they had permitted them- 
selves to accept this legend. But the legend was the 
plaything of a tiny minority. The great majority of 
Australians knew well enough that Canberra had been 
conceived, not in generous national enthusiasm, but in 
the haggling of provincialisms. 

The “Mother State” had been unable to hide its 
suspicion of an upstart Commonwealth and had de- 
manded that the capital of the Commonwealth should be 

within the boundaries of N ew South W ales. ’ ’ Victorian 
pride abhorred the idea of government from Sydney. 
The Commonwealth Constitution therefore embodied a 
compromise : that the capital city should be situated 
in territory acquired by the Commonwealth, within the 
State of New South Wales, but not less than 100 miles 
from Sydney. Then followed “the battle of the sites.” 
How large should be the Federal capital area ? Should it 
have access to the sea? Should it control the water- 
sheds from which it drew its water supply ? How near to 
Sydney, or how far from Sydney, should it be located ? 
These bickerings lasted nearly ten years. During the 
following ten years was fought ‘ ' the battle of the plans. ’ ’ 
It opened in 191 1 , when the Commonwealth Government 
invited architects to compete for prizes which would be 
awarded to the three best designs for Australia’s capital 

1 Town Planning in Australia, by George A. Taylor, 
Sydney, 1914. 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 279 

city. The Royal Institute of British Architects and the 
affiliated organisations in Victoria and New South Wales 
objected to the conditions of the competition, especially 
to the clause making a layman (a Labour Minister) the 
final judge of merit. Their members would take no part 
in the competition ; nor would they act on the com- 
mittee appointed to advise the adjudicating Minister. 
Thus it happened that the competition was, to all intents 
and purposes, a competition of foreigners judged by 
mediocrities. In 1912 the first prize was awarded to Mr. 
W. B. Griffin, a landscape architect of Chicago. Early 
in 1913 Mr. Griffin’s plan was set aside in favour of 
another plan compiled by Government servants and com- 
bining prominent features which had appeared in three 
of the competing designs. Later in the same year a new 
Minister reinstated the Griffin plan, and invited its author 
to come to Australia as ' ‘ federal director of design and 
construction.” The federal director found that he had to 
overcome the active and passive resistance of the depart- 
mental officials, terrible men who counted costs and knew 
a great deal about sewers. In 1914 the Minister favoured 
the officials and harassed Mr. Griffin ; in 1915 another 
Minister (the original adjudicator in the competition) 
harassed the officials and favoured Mr. Griffin. In 1916 
a special commission castigated the officials. Mr. 
Griffin’s appointment was renewed for three years. 
During these three years he was able to do little, owing 
to the war. In 1920 he quarrelled with Mr. Hughes, 
and Canberra knew him no more. He had not supervised 
the erection of a single Government building. He was, 
nevertheless, the victor in this “battle.” In November, 
1925, the Griffin plan was published officially in the 
Government Gazette. Whoever takes charge of the 
building of Canberra must carry out this plan. It is a 



cast-iron scheme to which Canberra must be fitted. That 
is why the suburbs which have sprung up so suddenly 
are scattered (at very great expense, for drains, roads, 
sewers, power, and light straggle over miles of empti- 
ness) around the periphery of the city area. The city has 
been planned and will be made ; it must not grow. 

Neither growth nor planning is a virtue in itself ; there 
can be untidy, ugly growth, or an empty, pretentious 
plan. The plan of Canberra is that of a garden city, in 
which the garden is more emphasised than the city. It 
is ten times more spacious than the new Delhi. In 
Australia, more than in any other country, the modern 
tendency of cities to scatter and spread may operate 
without check. It is therefore impossible that Australian 
cities should have “form” according to the old 
standards. It is true that the paper plan of Canberra is 
elaborately formal. Viewed from an aeroplane, the city 
would appear as an intricate geometrical pattern of lines 
which sweep round three chief centres. Unity between 
the centres is sought by means of three ‘ ‘ axes ’ ’ — the 
land axis, the municipal axis, and the water axis, which 
passes through the five ornamental basins which some 
day will bisect the city. Upon the architectural treat- 
ment of these “axes ” the future character of Canberra 
in large measure depends. Mr. Griffin paid particular 
attention to their symbolical treatment. His symbolism 
is of a sociological kind. Everything is placed in relation 
to everything else in accordance with a curious academic 
“system.” The buildings of the future university, for 
example, are planned in concentric circles intended to 
illustrate the expansion of human knowledge from the 
fundamental sciences through the theoretical sciences to 
the applied sciences, beyond which are “those spheres 
where the sciences will be utilised in real life.” Thus, on 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 281 

that part of the rim of the outer circle marked by the 
two . spokes running out from biology, lie surgery, 
medicine, pharmacy, recreation, athletics ; in the offing 
there is a hospital and a field pond. This is an interesting 
exposition of the new culture. But it is not architecture. 
Architects must some day attempt the task of translating 
the elaborate pattern of lines and figures into three- 
dimensional form. It is doubtful whether they will 
succeed. Form is produced by pressure, or by the 
deliberate economy of space. The pattern of an hexagon 
which is so obvious on a paper plan is not an intelligible 
figure to citizens who must spend five or ten minutes 
pacing the length of one face of the hexagon. The design 
becomes invisible ; all that is left is a series of bewildering 
jerks. Similarly, the curves of a street have no formal 
significance unless there is a just proportion between the 
width of the street and the height of the buildings which 
front it. If the houses stand up like a wall they will mark 
the line of the street no less distinctly than it is traced 
on paper. But in the vast open spaces of Canberra’s 
suburbs breadth has spread and height has shrunk till 
the houses have, from the point of view of general 
design, no more relevance than a kerb-stone. Perhaps 
the design may still be saved by "punctuation” and 
the happy closing of vistas. But, in Canberra’s suburbs, 
the work of translating the plan into three-dimensional 
form has already failed. Canberra is springing up in the 
familiar Australian way as a kind of suburban garden 
parcelled into plots by a network of paths which have 
no obvious beginning and lead to no visible end. It is a 
chaos of prettiness. 

It has all happened so quickly. After twenty years of 
argument and delay the Commonwealth decided in 1920 
(under pressure from New South Wales) that it must 



hasten to honour its bond. Seven years later the Duke 
of York opened "provisional ” Parliament House, which 
is as yet the only significant building in Canberra. In 
the intervening period, the Government had spent a very 
large amount of money in making ' ' a garden town, with 
simple, pleasing, but unpretentious buildings . . . 
planned, nevertheless, to afford adequate comfort and 
reasonable convenience. . . .” So, after all, the 
"middling standard” asserted itself. "Adequate com- 
fort and reasonable convenience ’ ’ — that was all the 
Australians could afford. After the City Beautiful and 
the Pride of Time, it seems rather an anti-climax. There 
is something very attractive about garden cities ; but it is 
difficult to pretend that they are nobler than Pericles' 
Athens. The Australians did not really want to make 
"a world’s centre of civic beauty.” Their ideal of "fair 
and reasonable ’ ’ is laudable from the humanitarian point 
of view ; but it does not aim at special excellence in 
artistic creation. Democratic society aims, in its present 
stage of development, at average satisfactions for 
average people. This is an excellent aim, which becomes 
delusive only when it is pretended that the average is 
"divine.” The Australians have said : "Seek ye first 
a high standard of comfort, and the Kingdom of God 
shall be added unto you. ’ ’ What they have really wanted 
is the high standard of comfort. Perhaps Tocqueville 
was right when he reflected that democratic nations 

will cultivate the arts which make life easy in prefer- 
ence to the arts whose object is to adorn it.” 

# * * * * 

Canberra is a document of Australian immaturity. 
Tocqueville would probably have read it as a document 
of "pure” democracy. Believing that the form of 

Some Aspects of Society in a "New” Country 283 

society which he observed in America was destined to 
assert itself even in his own France, he made himself 
its melancholy herald. Yet his book paints a vivid pic- 
ture, not of ‘ ' pure ’ ’ democracy (for there is no such 
thing), but of an individual democracy which had grown 
up under pioneering conditions. It is this which makes 
it particularly valuable for Australians. Thoughtful 
Australians will not deny that they too have been content 
(except in the production of staple commodities, which 
has been Australia’s proper business) with a “middling 
standard 1 ’ ; but they will not admit that this standard 
is fixed for ever. They will assert that it is a phase of 
their national growth. Australian democracy has been 
interwoven with Australian nationalism, which insisted 
upon establishing its own standards instead of contenting 
itself with insipid imitations of English gentility. Its 
hearty self-assertiveness has the flavour of popular 
ranting in the Tudor age. It is as if the Australians had 
skipped the eighteenth century and were back in 
Edward VI. ’s England without the lords of the council 
and all the nobility. The period of enthusiastic radicalism 
— the period, that is to say, of Syme, Deakin, Higgins, 
Archibald’s Bulletin, the youthful Labour party ; the 
period of “fair and reasonable,’’ of “independent 
Australian Britons,’’ of Canberra — is already closed. 
It produced some excellent rhetoric and even some noble 
utterance. It made the Commonwealth. Its impatient 
optimism reared some pretentious structures, intellectual 
as well as economic, upon inadequate foundations. Its 
standards were “middling.’’ But the most impressive 
thing about this age is its vigour, the restless energy 
■which it poured out everywhere, and even in the pursuit 
of fixity. It may perhaps be regarded as the climax of 
the gold-rushes. It marks an episode in the adjustment 



of old stocks to a new climate ; it witnesses the first 
experiment in a national “form.” There will be many 
centuries of experiment. 

Hitherto experiment has been confined overmuch to 
politics. What the Australians seem to have achieved 
in this sphere is largely illusory : first, because they 
have been sheltered from other nations ; and, secondly, 
because they have been but a handful of people in pro- 
portion to the resources of their country. Therefore they 
have never been compelled to shoulder the responsi- 
bilities and withstand the pressures which are part of the 
normal life of older peoples. This accounts in part for 
the untidy growth of their systems of political economy. 
They have, in fact — even when they imagined that they 
were casting down mighty barriers — followed the line of 
least resistance. The exuberant, egotistical, idealistic 
nationalism of a generation ago was the sign, not that 
the Australians had already become a nation, but that 
they wished to become one. For nationality consists, not 
merely in political unity, but in spiritual achievement. 
Regarded from this point of view, the Australian people 
has not yet come of age. Its position is a peculiarly 
difficult one. It is not an advantage to be “ the whole 
world’s legatee.” The heir to all the ages can neither 
understand nor enjoy the whole of his inheritance ; in 
practice he cares little for any of the ages except the 
last. This is true in politics and industry, in religion and 
in culture. The Australians inherited parliaments, but 
they did not inherit the parliamentary grandeur of the 
age of Pitt and Fox. They quickly learnt to push con- 
stitutional forms to the extreme limit so that they might 
get their way. They made their legislatures a school of 
bad manners. Australia is (professedly) a Christian 
country ; but she has not inherited the Christianity of 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 285 

the crusading age or the covenanting age ; she has in- 
herited the more reasonable Christianity of a less pas- 
sionate age. She has also inherited credulous ration- 
alism and all the other ‘ ‘ isms ’ ’ of the nineteenth century. 
She has not inherited a village civilisation nor love of the 
soil, but she has inherited factories and factory-farms 
and the class war. She has inherited textbooks written 
by professors of sociology. Very frequently, the text- 
books are out of date. It is picturesque, but misleading, 
to imagine the citizen of Melbourne or Adelaide with 
“his foot upon the Future’s verge.’’ His ideas are — 
necessarily, because he is so far away from those tradi- 
tion-ridden centres where men are adventurously think- 
ing — behind the times. He inherits, sartorially and in- 
tellectually, last season’s fashions. He has also inherited 
habits curiously unsuited to his sub-tropical climate, such 
as the habit of consuming liquor standing at a counter 
behind swing doors. He has rejected the standards of a 
rural gentry, but has inherited the standards of an urban 
bourgeoisie. He has inherited motor-cars, moving 
pictures, and new notions in journalism. (“Mitta- 
GONGITES 1 Place Mittagong on the Map for all Time. 
Be a Booster for Your Own Town ! You can boost your 
own Town and make it an Ideal Tourist Resort by giving 
us your co-operation and help by insisting on having 
only Milk from Tested Animals !’’) He has inherited a 
ready-made civilisation. How, then, can he discover and 
express a life of his own ? Amidst this foreign din, how 
can Australia’s voice be heard ? 

Australians who love their country — as distinct from 
the “good conditions” which they may enjoy there — 
are sometimes tempted to avert their eyes, from the 
spreading rash of nineteenth-century suburbanism.. They 
will not see Canberra ; their view winds down rippling 



grass slopes over the city and upwards to rapid ridges 
and ravines which rise to the beautifully lifting scarp of 
the Monaro plateau. Some of them resent even the 
domestication of wild landscapes and the civilising of the 

“ Many there are who seek no higher lot 
For all your writhing centuries of toil 
Than that the avaricious plough should blot 
Their wilding burgeon, and the red brand spoil 
Your cyclopean garniture, to sow 
The cheap parterres of Europe on your woe. 

They weave all sorceries but yours, and borrow 
The tinkling spell of alien winds and seas 
To drown the chord of purifying sorrow, 

Born ere this world, that pulses through your trees.” 

(O’Dowd, from The Bush.) 

Others go questing into “the outside country.” “For 
out here you have reached the core of Australia, the 
real red Australia of the ages. . . . That is the real 
Australia, and it is as delicate as its own grasses.” 1 
Suspicion of the spread of urban life is more than a senti- 
mental fad of literary men. Mr. Bean is the editor of 
Australia’s official war history, and declares, in the Royal 
Historical Journal (vol. xiii., p. 14), that “ the results of 
our experience show that the country-bred man is, other 
thing s being equal, the better soldier. An examination 
of an enormous mass of data brings that lesson out again 
and again; the distinction is perfectly well marked.” 
It is not without reason that those who wait impatiently 
“till we become ourselves, distinct, Australian,” should 
look beyond the marine ribbon of settlement out into the 
central plains where a new people will be made. Francis 
Adams prophesied half a century ago that the men of 
“the Pacific Slope” and the men of “the Eastern 

1 C. E. W. Bean, On the Wool Track, p. 72. 

Some Aspects of Society in a “ New ” Country 287 

Interior” would soon be different races. “The differ- 
ence between them is so complete that it will soon be 
quite inaccurate to use the same name for both. . . . 
Nothing but the intense, the overwhelmingly and horribly 
intense character of the climatic conditions of the Interior 
could account for a differentiation absolutely defined 
after two generations. . . . The Bush is the heart of 
the country, the real Australian Australia, and it is with 
the Bushman that the final fate of the nation and the race 
will be.” That may be true. But Australia cannot find 
her soul in a hermit’s solitude. The “two races” are 
less distinct now than they were half a century ago. If 
the Bush is ‘‘the real Australian Australia,” it is not 
merely because the Bush is remote, but because it is 
‘‘tethered to the world.” And that is as it should be. 

“ When the clipper fleet comes over 
When the scent is on the clover, 

And the scarlet streaks the blue; 

When the Western sheds are ringing 
And the Western men are singing 

As their rolling teams come through, 

Then it's ho, ho — Wool hoi 
For the busy shears are clipping, and a stir is in the 

And it’s yo, ho — Wool hoi” 

(E. J. Brady.) 

It is only the weak who fear a stir in the shipping. The 
strong feel no need to close their ports. 

Australian democracy has been proud to boast that it 

“ Product of the present only, 

Thinking nothing of the past.” 

That is one reason why Australia is threatened with sub- 
mergence by the more stupid ideas, credulities, and 
quarrels of the day before yesterday. It is the parable of 



the house swept and garnished. Perhaps it was necessary 
to reject the values of an old world. This means that the 
Australians must create their own values, or rediscover 
the old ones for themselves. Hitherto they have accepted 
the “middling standard.” They have been willing to 
water good wine so that there may be enough for every- 
body. Their democratic theory asserts that the divine 
average has, potentially, a cultivated palate. This theory 
will be compelled to adjust itself to the facts. The 
majority of men want honest beer. A very small minority 
prefers rare vintages. When this minority wants them 
desperately enough it will get them. Tocqueville’s theory 
of the perpetual mediocrity of democratic society is inter- 
woven with his theory of the tyranny of the majority ; 
but, under every form of society, it is always a minority 
which holds power. A minority which recognises true 
standards will know how to make them respected. If 
necessary, it will make them respected by overthrowing 
the majority. If democracy is essentially mediocre it will 
become decrepit and be thrust aside. The warning comes 
from old countries. And it is a mistake to consider life 
in new countries as if it had settled into stagnation. 

Qualities must be tasted and felt ; they cannot be 
proved. The possibilities of a new people in Australia 
may be suggested (perhaps sentimentally) in a parable. 
Australia had a dog of tireless limbs and terrific strength 
of jaw ; necessity had taught it to range vast distances 
in search of prey and to creep in silence upon its belly 
within pouncing distance of a victim. Then the British 
came, bringing sheep and cattle, and friendly, intelligent 
Scotch collies who would race round a flock of sheep, 
barking jovially — effectively, too, while the sheep re- 
mained gentle and the fields small. But the unhappy collie 
panted and sweated and barked ineffectually at wild 

Some Aspects of Society in a “New” Country 289 

merinos scattered over endless miles of blistered Austra- 
lian plains. It was necessary to find a dog that would 
‘ ‘ do the work of three men ’ ’ — a tireless animal that 
would work wide to gather the mob, hold it when it 
sought to break, drive and shepherd it with more than 
human energy and patience. The Australian kelpie, 
bred from judicious crossing of smooth-haired Scots 
collie (with a slight strain of fox) and the native dingo, 
satisfies these conditions. “For the kelpie no day is too 
hot and none too cold ’ ’ ; it will gather a mob by working 
wide, and frighten it into steadiness by creeping forward 
on its belly like a stalking dingo. Similarly, in the evolu- 
tion of an Australian cattle-dog, the native dingo strain 
has been decisive. There were many experiments and 
many disappointments ; at one time the cross produced 
too severe a biter, at another too hearty a barker. In the 
end there emerged a big, silent, tractable, clean-biting 
dog, which would follow a mob of cattle, urge it forward 
by snapping at the hind-legs of stragglers, and then 
lie flat on the earth to escape their kick ; or, if need be, 
gallop to the head of the column and swing it to right 
or left by snapping at the leaders’ necks. 

The story of the dogs can be no more than a parable ; 
it is not an analogy. When it suits them, men may take 
control and play fine tricks and hustle Nature. Yet we 
may believe that Australia, quietly and imperceptibly 
(what do a few centuries matter, after so long a 
waiting ?) , is experimenting on the men as they experi- 
mented on the dogs. She will be satisfied at long last, 
and when she is satisfied an Australian nation will in 
truth exist. 




It was only gradually that the Australians began to 
achieve awareness of their country, and of themselves as 
belonging to it. Australia was, first of all, a dumping- 
ground for England’s refuse. Then she became a new 
field for the swarming of British stocks. Any other 
large, empty country would have suited just as well. 
Australia was the Antipodes, whither men were bewilder- 
ingly whirled. The stolid ones ignored its strangeness ; 
the homesick ones (and most were homesick) resented it ; 
the greedy (and all were greedy) exploited it. Those who 
were romantic described for the benefit of their friends in 
civilised Europe the curious spectacle of eucalypts and 
marsupials and Stone Age aborigines. And this is how 
Australian literature begins, with Barron Field’s First 
Fruits of Australian Poetry : 

“Kangaroo, Kangaroo! 

Thou spirit of Australia, 

That redeems from utter failure, 

And perfect desolation, 

And warrants the creation 
Of this fifth part of earth." 

Fifty years later the Australians were still being 
invited, by Marcus Clarke, to see their country as 
"a fantastic land of monstrosities,” telling its ‘‘story 
of sullen despair ” ‘ ‘ in the language of the barren and 
the uncouth.” Such a story Clarke himself told, melo- 
dramatically and powerfully, in a book which was, until 
recently, the most notable of Australian novels — For the 
Term of His Natural Life (1872). Two other respect- 


Literature and Art 


able romances were written in the nineteenth century — 
Geoffrey Hamlyn, by Henry Kingsley, and Robbery 
under Arms , by T. A. Browne (“Rolf Boldrewood 
The first book depicts the hey-day of squatterdom and the 
last decade of convictism ; the second depicts the bush- 
ranging days. Both are full of local colour ; but neither 
is completely Australian. Even Browne, who came with 
his family from England at the age of four and lived the 
life of the stations and the gold-fields, which he describes 
with so much zest, thinks it proper to confer upon his 
heroes the felicity of spending their colonial-made 
fortunes in England. This was the British- Australian 
convention, which was hardly challenged until half a 
century ago. Australian life was interesting to stay-at- 
home Englishmen and to Englishmen-Australianate so 
long as it seemed picturesque. But the supply of adven- 
turous younger sons, innocent convicts, and chivalrous 
bushrangers was not inexhaustible. And what else was 
there to write about ? Some day, perhaps, Wentworth’s 
undergraduate vision might be realised — 

“And Australasia float, with flag unfurl’d 
A new Britannia in another world 1 ” 

But in the meantime Australasia was colonial — a very 
provincial Britannia, and dull. The British-Austra- 
lian convention died at last from pure boredom. 
Absenteeism still remained, a permanent weakness of 
Australian life ; but it was no longer a theme of romantic 

If the Australians were nothing more than provincial 
Englishmen, it would be absurd to speak of an Australian 
literature. The possibility of such a literature is de- 
pendent upon the uniqueness of Australian landscapes 
and the individuality of Australian life. Its distinctive 
character will consist, partly in the themes which it 



handles, partly in its method and outlook. It will be 
Australian in the sense of being an individual contribu- 
tion to English literature. It has not yet become wholly 
individual, because it is still engaged in the task of build- 
ing its own tradition. The difficulty of this task might 
be illustrated by a study of the language changes which 
have occurred in Australia. One hundred years ago a 
visitor to Sydney observed that the cockneys had 
‘ 1 stamped the language of the rising generation with 
their unenviable peculiarity .” 1 Side by side with this 
“London method of pronunciation,” and frequently 
interwoven with it, there has grown up (as the natural 
product of a new climate) an Australian intonation which, 
though it is thin and narrow in its range of tone, is 
expressive and pleasant to the ear. Those teachers who 
struggle against the common curse of debased English 
would do better to develop the resources of this legiti- 
mate accent rather than attempt the impossible task of 
impressing upon scoffing pupils Oxford English thrice 
removed. The Australian intonation has in it something 
of heat-dazzle in “the land of lots o’ time.” There has 
been a similar influence upon the vocabulary of the 
Australians. It is smaller and simpler than the vocabu- 
lary of middle-class Englishmen, for Australia does 
not tolerate forms of thought and expression (such as 
irony) which are perplexing or offensive to the average 
man ; and has also rejected, almost at a blow, the 
beautiful names of an intimate countryside — fields and 
meadows, woods, copse, spinney and thicket, dale, glen, 
vale and coomb, brook, stream and rivulet, inn, and 
village. But in their place there is the Bush and a new 
vocabulary of the Bush — billabong, dingo, damper, 

1 Two Years in New South Wales, by P. Cunningham. 
1829 Letter XXI. 

Literature and Art 293 

bushwacker, billy, cooee, swag, swaggie, humpy, stock- 
man, jackaroo, squatter, bushranger, sundowner, 
brumby, drover, never-never, outback, back-blocks. 
One is “on the track, ’ ’ “on the wallaby.” Many words 
have come from the aborigines, some have worked up- 
wards from “St. Giles’ Greek,” others (digger, fossick, 
pan out) derive from the gold-rushes, and others still 
are originals coined off-hand out of experience and a 
matter-of-fact humour. Here, surely, is new wealth, 
expressive of a distinctive and vigorous life, material for 
an individual literature. 

As early as the sixties of last century the native-born 
population outnumbered the immigrants by three to two, 
and newcomers to Australia began to find there, not 
merely a camping-ground, but a community in which 
they were willing to be absorbed. Writers in new 
countries are apt to be indifferent to the technique of 
their craft, partly because of their isolation and the low 
standards of criticism, partly because they are pre- 
occupied with a content hitherto unexpressed, rather 
than with form. For this reason the work of writers who 
have adapted to Australian conditions the technique 
which they had acquired in Europe (Gordon, Daley, 
Ogilvie, Hebblethwaite, and others) has been an im- 
portant influence in the development of native expres- 
sion. It was a Scottish schoolmaster, Brunton Stephens 
(already thirty-one years of age when he came to 
Queensland), whose forecast of The Dominion of 
'Australia lifted to a new level the poetry of Australian 
patriotism — 

" She is not yet; but he whose ear 
Thrills to that finer atmosphere 

Where footfalls of appointed things, 
Reverberant of days to be, 



Are heard in forecast echoings, 

Like wave-beats from a viewless sea — 
Hears in the voiceful tremours of the sky 
Auroral heralds whispering, ‘ She is nigh.’ . . . 

But the best verse written in Australia during the nine- 
teenth century came from the pen of an Australian-born 
poet, Henry Kendall. His work may be regarded as that 
of a minor poet of the English Romantic school, for 
he leaned heavily upon Wordsworth and the later 
Romantics ; but it possesses also an altogether different 
significance as the beginning of a native tradition in 
lyric poetry, the poetry of personal experience and of 
the Bush. Kendall uses the words of a diction which 
Australian speech has rejected — dale and glen, rill and 
brook — but he also weaves into his verses, very music- 
ally, the aboriginal place-names of Australia. He sings 
spontaneously of Australian seasons, of “the valleys of 
coolness, the slopes of the heat,” of the burnt ridges 
and the “fern-feathered passes ” in the beautiful Pacific 
country where he was born. It is in the spirit of Kendall 
that the Australian painters, a generation later, began 
to annotate and interpret these same mountains and 

An influence which had more immediate effect than 
Kendall’s was that of Adam Lindsay Gordon. Gordon 
was a British-Australian who accepted the convention 
(which was, indeed, in harmony with one side of his own 
temperament) that the Bush was alien and melancholy ; 
but he also expressed in action and in verse the gusto 
with which manly Britons lived an outdoor life under 
Australian skies. He loosened his Swinburnian rhythms 
to imitate the galloping of horses, and adorned his 
rhymed anecdote with moralisings which were accept- 
able to a simple people engaged in primitive struggles — 

Literature and Art 


“ Life is mostly froth and bubble; 

Two things stand like stone • 

Kindness in another’s trouble, 

Courage in your own.” 

Although Gordon never became acclimatised to Australia, 
he popularised the ballad form, the long, loping line, and 
the jingling rhythms which sprawl over most of the 
pages of the two or three thousand volumes of 
verse published in Australia since his tragic death in 
1870. The Australians, after all, were spreading and 
wandering like their metres. Their ballads dealt most 
frequently with the “Eastern Interior” and the types 
of men which wandered over the length and breadth of 
it — drovers and shearers, prospectors and bullockies, 
men who would not touch their hats to landlords and 
disapproved of stations which were named “ Chandos 
Park Estate.” With Henry Lawson and “Banjo” 
Paterson this nomad literature became part of the demo- 
cratic nationalism which repudiated English fashions, 
baited the squatters, preached federation, and played 
with the idea of republicanism. This means that it 
became part of Archibald’s Bulletin, which (so The 
Times once said) “educated Bush Australia up to 

Archibald had in his veins blood of the Scots, the 
Irish, the French, and the Jews ; and he was Australian- 
born. When he visited London he was appalled at “ the 
unspeakable, incredible callousness of the rich towards 
the poor ; at the denying of meals to the wan and hungry 
by the fat and fashionably dressed ; at the dreadful sights 
of the city’s centre, the Strand.” He thought of London 
as “that cruel city.” His Australian patriotism was, 
at least on the surface, anti-English, and under his 
editorship the Bulletin buried the corpse of the Anglo- 
Australian convention. His creed was Australia, and the 



Bulletin existed to make Australia articulate. There is a 
flavour of calculating irreverence in its repudiations of 
colonial gentility, a larrikin smartness and deliberate 
crudity which has developed into the “ dinkum Aussie ” 
cult. This spirit has expressed itself most obviously in 
the cartoons of Hopkins, Phil May, Low, Will Dyson, 
and Norman Lindsay. The Australian facility in black 
and white was a discovery of the Bulletin. Indeed, there 
was no distinctive Australian activity, during the two last 
decades of the nineteenth century, which the Bulletin did 
not discover, or at' least foster. It shifted the literary 
centre of Australia from Melbourne to Sydney. Those 
were roaring days for the untidy crowd of scribblers, for 
the Bulletin paid promptly, and an erratic favourite of 
Archibald’s might sometimes receive an anticipatory 

Probably the larger part of the ballads and short stories 
which have been collected in anthologies appeared 
originally in the Bulletin. The Australian short story is 
the prose equivalent of the Australian ballad — which, 
indeed, is frequently nothing more than a short story 
chopped into rhymed lengths. The descriptive prose of 
Australia is better than its descriptive verse. The 
Bulletin has probably done a disservice to the versifiers 
by encouraging their diffuseness, but it has compelled the 
story-tellers to economise their words. These Bulletin 
stories are effective. They have few subtleties or graces ; 
no picturesque heroes (except in Papua) ; few crises of 
passion or terror ; no contrasts or complexities of pattern. 
They are slices of experience. It is as if a band of 
collectors had been scouring all Australia and the 
adjoining islands for representative types and sub-types 
of homo sapiens. It must be admitted that the rival col- 
lectors have frequently captured very similar specimens. 

Literature and Art 


Moreover, they have a tendency to plaster them over 
with sticky mixtures of local colour. Yet, for Australians, 
these stories have the significance of a folk-record, a 
chaotic chronicle of their outpouring over a continent, 
of their endurance, wretchedness, brutality, chivalry, 
courage, and triumph. 

There is no reason why this flow of stories should 
slacken until the flow of primitive life has ceased and the 
back-blocks have become sophisticated. But no work of 
the last thirty years has reached the level of Henry 
Lawson’s writing in the ten years preceding federation. 
Before Lawson, the western Bushmen had been "mere 
automatic reactions to the struggle for existence.” 
Lawson made them real, not only to themselves, but even 
to civilised persons in Europe. He was himself a nomad, 
and too direct to attempt tricks of style and plot and 
pattern ; he simply saw things , in their general signifi- 
cance and in their mos£ minute detail, and transcribed 
what he saw, with a humour and pathos which are not 
something added, but qualities of the life in which he 
shared. To the Australians of that time Lawson’s stories 
brought self-recognition. The only comparable literary 
effort was that of Joseph Furphy (" Tom Collins ”), who 
crammed between the covers of one book (Such is Life) 
a whole lifetime of physical and mental meanderings over 
the western plains and through the universe. Collins is 
the philosopher of "the earlies” in Australia, and it is 
curious to observe how he constantly returns from his 
ramblings in almost every field of speculation and erudi- 
tion to the Australian simplicities — to Lawson’s "gospel 
of mateship ” and the nationalistic defiance of an aristo- 
cratic past, with its " clinging heritage of canonised 
ignorance, brutality, and baseness.” In Lawson and 
Collins, and almost every other writer of the Bulletin 



school, Australian nationalism expressed itself as a 
repudiation of English conventions and standards, as a 
vindication of equality and democracy and an assertion 
of the supreme worth of the average man. 

This Australian creed was explicitly stated in the 
poetry of Bernard O’Dowd, who is, with Deakin, the 
most Australian voice in the pre-war period of the Com- 
monwealth. Poetry, according to O’ Dowd, must be 
“militant.” "I hold that the real poet must be an 
Answerer, as Whitman calls him, of the real questions 
of his age.” “ It is just as big a heresy to say that Art 
is for Beauty alone as to say that it is for Good alone, or 
for Truth alone. Art is for The Good and The True by 
way of The Beautiful.” True to his conviction, O’Dowd 
dedicated his muse to the quest of “ the Grail that holds 
the Proletarian Eucharist.” He composed hymns for 
“the bottom dog brigade.” Yet, because of the severe 
discipline which he imposed upon himself, and because 
it truly was by way of the beautiful that he sought the 
good, he carved his unpromising material into forms 
which will be enduring. His thought ranged so far and 
his feeling for Australia was so intense that there are 
glimpses of unrecorded and unlived centuries even in 
poems which he conceived as tracts for the times. His 
longest poem, “The Bush,” opens almost absurdly with 
lists of his obscure contemporaries and with fantastic 
historical comparisons. But its solemn stanzas gradually 
unfold a vision of Australia’s timeless beauty and of a 
devotion through which her new children may make her 
soil sacred — 

“ We love our brothers, and to heal their woe 
Pluck simples from the known old gardens still; 

We love our kindred over seas, and grow 
Their symbols tenderly o’er plain and hill; 


Literature and Art 

We feel their blood rebounding in our hearts, 

And speak as they would speak our daily parts. 

Yet under all we know, we know that only 
A virgin womb unsoiled by ancient fear 
Can Saviours bear. So we, your Brahmins, lonely, 

Deaf to the barren tumult, wait your Year. . . 

Occasionally O’ Dowd seasons his intense passion for 
Australia with a spice of humour. In Auster Rampant 
there is a deliberately impish arrogance — 

"Antipodean? Whew! We are the head, 

The oceanic head, while you, slung low 
With lands that scrape the floor of heaven, gaze 
Far o’er the Bull your old Europa wed 
Up to the Chambers of the South where glow 
Our pennant stars, our wider Milky Ways l” 

In a sonnet which interprets the ' ‘ Arrogant stare of an 
Australian cow ’ ’ he ridicules with a very pleasant irony 
the petty greed of the short-lived generations of men. 
But his irony is sharpened by the passion of his belief 
that man has it in him to achieve nobility. And his 
patriotism urges him to an insistent questioning of 
Australia’s destiny ; for may it not be here, in Australia, 
in this ‘ ‘ Last sea-thing dredged by Sailor Time from 
Space ’ ’ that man may march at last towards the Light ? 
He asks a question which he dare not answer — 

"The cenotaphs of species dead elsewhere 
That in your limits leap and swim and fly, 

And trail uncanny harp-strings from your trees, 

Mix omens with the auguries that dare 
To plant the Cross upon your forehead sky, 

A virgin helpmate Ocean at your knees." 

Despite his intense nationalism and his jealous passion 
to guard Australia from barbarian plunderers, O’ Dowd 
claims the right for Australian poets to inherit, and (if 
they can) contribute to, the accumulated wealth of 
English poetry — 

300 Australia 

“ Whate'er was yours is ours in equal measure, 

The Temple was not built for you alone, 

Altho’ 'tis ours to grace the common treasure 
With Lares and Penates of our own." 

The task of the Australian poet, as he conceives it, is 
1 ‘ to report ... all things that have been and are . . . 
from an Australian point of view.” This is a useful 
protest against parochialism in literature. Poetry which 
is tied to circumstances of time and place can never be 
poetry of a very high order. A good deal of Australian 
verse is mere documentation, useful to the historian. It 
may even be doubted whether “the Australian point of 
view ” is so very important. All that matters is that poets 
should approach their universal themes by the road of 
their own experience. To this extent only is true poetry 
‘‘national.” It is on the whole cause for satisfaction 
that, in contemporary Australian verse (for example, in 
the delicate lyrics of Shaw Neilson), Australia is becom- 
ing an influence rather than a doctrine or a subject.” 
Nor should Australians complain if some of their poets 
contribute directly to European letters, as C. J. Brennan 
does ; or if others, like W. J. Turner, discover that they 
can do their best work in England. 

The idea of ‘‘Poetry Militant” may be discerned in 
the work of two writers of the post-1914 period — Fumley 
Maurice and William Blocksidge. Both these names are 
pen-names. Fumley Maurice believes that poetry should 
be ‘ ‘ drawn straight from the fact, ’ ’ and professes a demo- 
crat's faith in what he calls ‘ ‘ the wonder of honest and 
slow seriousness — dulness, in fact.” His verse is uneven ; 
but it has body, and is, as a rule, technically well- 
handled ; moreover, Maurice has, despite his serious 
creed, an imaginative fantasy which has expressed itself 
very pleasantly in books for children. Blocksidge is 

Literature and Art 


Australian in the Anzac manner. A good deal of his work 
is poor poetry and poor philosophy ; but it is neverthe- 
less extremely interesting because of its uncompromising 
revolt against. the democratic dogma which, for half a 
century or more, has been interwoven with Australian 
nationalism. He has published privately a national tract 
called The New Life, which preaches rebellion against 
democracy and the tyranny of ‘ ‘ the bottom dog 

“ List you, list you to this word, 

Ay, and list again ! 

Modern democracy is the sword 
.That mows all proper men. 

Idiocy at ease abides; 

Lunatics and suicides 
Draw out in number; the lean and sick 
Enlarge themselves. Why should we stick 
At clearing this high foulness? 

At purging this low dulness?” 

He wants ‘‘blood alive,” “more blood, more joy, more 
spirit,” and exclaims bitterly — 

“ The slaves, the weak, cried out ' Love well 
The slaves, the weak ! ’ And so it fell.” 

He loathes the democratic passion for comfort (“Too 
great security one cause of barrenness”) and thinks 
that it is the business of Australians to swarm. ‘ ' Our 
present goal (to be supplanted, when reached, by one of 
longer touch) shall be the overrunning of Earth by 
Australians, strong, hot-necked, natural men.” 

All this is interesting because it voices a violent reac- 
tion of Australian individualism against Australian social 
democracy. Blocksidge denounces the civilised calcula- 
tions and timidities which end too soon the barbarian age 
of the Australians. The poetry which he expects from 



them is an epic poetry suitable to a primitive people. 
He has built much of his verse upon the Elizabethans 
and Blake, and in his prose there are Old Testament 
rhythms. He has written (“to entertain soldiers, and 
not for young women ”) one notable book of war stories, 
The Anzac Muster, which aims to be a prose epic of 
Australian manhood and Gallipoli. 

In recent years there have been signs of new life in 
the prose of Australians. The short story business still 
returns regular dividends — two or three tales a week in 
the Bulletin, and others scattered about. Most of them 
are competently mediocre in the established manner, but 
one or two writers have broken new ground. Vance 
Palmer and Myra Morris have introduced elements of 
complexity and contrast into their studies of situation 
and character. Vance Palmer is a deliberate stylist and 
very sensitive to Australian landscape ; both in his stories 
and his novels he has conveyed an impression of the 
subtle interplay of personalities with each other and with 
the earth from which they spring. He has broken from 
swing and swagger and crude Australian vigour. One 
of the most vigorous of Australian novelists is Katharine 
Prichard, who has written about Gippsland, the south- 
western forests, the north-western stations, and the 
central deserts. One suspects occasionally a conscious 
endeavour to cover the vast open spaces of Australia 
with descriptive literature ; but her description is often 
vivid, and she writes of Australia as one who belongs 
there. Her people are instinctive and sometimes violent 
creatures of nature ; they merge with the landscape. One 
may trace in Katharine Prichard and in other Australian 
writers the influence of D. H. Lawrence. There is, how- 
ever, an encouraging variety in recent Australian fiction. 
Novelists have at last understood the significance of 

Literature and Art 303 

Australian history as a transplanting of stocks and the 
sending down of roots in a new soil. Two family 
chronicles — The Montforts, by Martin Mills, and A 
House is Built, by H. Barnard Elder shaw — have illus- 
trated the continuity of life amidst the chaos of migra- 
tions and settlement. The first book records the efforts 
of an old family to maintain its tradition against the 
levelling aggressiveness of ‘ ‘ the wealthy lower orders ’ ’ 
of Melbourne ; the second book launches a new family 
on the full, vigorous stream of Sydney’s life. It is very 
successful in recreating periods of history — perhaps too 
successful, for in some chapters one looks almost in- 
stinctively for the historian’s footnotes. There is no sug- 
gestion of documents in Henry Handel Richardson’s fine 
trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney. This book 
is architecture on the grand scale, with all the scaffolding 
cut away. 

All these novelists, except Vance Palmer, have 
adopted pen-names. Perhaps this is a device of self- 
protection. For the best Australian writers are frequently 
without honour in their own country. Henry Handel 
Richardson’s first novel, Maurice Guest, had for twenty 
years enjoyed a reputation among discriminating readers 
in Europe before the Australians heard of it. The first 
two volumes of the Richard Mahoney trilogy did not 
interest them, and they began half-heartedly to read the 
third volume in deference to the opinion of English 
reviewers. It is very difficult to secure the best Austra- 
lian books in Australian bookshops. There is in Australia 
no literary review with decent standards. The Saturday 
editions of the metropolitan daily papers are an inade- 
quate substitute. Sometimes there is good criticism in 
the Bulletin, but just as often there is bad criticism ; for 
the convention of that paper is that anyone may ventilate 



in its columns his literary prejudices. Emphatic jour- 
nalists argue with each other on the Bulletin’s red page 
about the Australian accent, Danish education, why 
Australians leave home, and other entertaining topics ; 
hut they offer no consistent guidance to readers who wish 
to avoid the worst books and buy the best. The “ mid- 
dling standard” is nowhere more apparent than in 
literary criticism. Australia, as always, is merciful to the 
average. The better writers, feeling that they are mis- 
understood, frequently make things worse by over- 
praising each other. The reading public in the great 
cities has not the energy to look for plums of promise in 
the cake of mediocrity, and contents itself with English 
reputations. Sydney and Melbourne have between them 
nearly 2,000,000 inhabitants. Nowhere in the world is 
there so large a mass of people content to live so much 
of its life at second-hand. Yet, in the long run, the 
remedy is with the Australian writers. If they make their 
novels good enough the public will have to read them. 
If they write and produce good plays the public will in 
the end demand to see them. Melbourne, like Dublin, 
might become the home of a national theatre. A begin- 
ning has been made here by Louis Esson, who has 
written and produced some short plays ( Dead Timber 
is the best) as the first Australian protest against the 
imported commercialised mediocrity of England and 


The artists are more fortunate than the writers. 
Indeed, in art the Australians have gone to the other 
extreme ; for they will buy nothing that is not 1 1 locally 
produced,” and tax civilisation by means of a protective 
duty upon foreign work, and even on the work of Austra- 

Literature and Art 305 

lian painters who have dared to remain too long abroad. 
Some day, perhaps, they will devise a scheme for 
“dumping” their pictures as they “dump” their 
butter. Nevertheless, their nationalist outlook on art is 
healthy, so long as it does not perpetuate itself. It has 
been a necessary revolt against imitation and the habit 
of seeing things with other people’s eyes. It is due to 
Julian Ashton, more than to any other man, that Austra- 
lian painters have won the support of an enthusiastic 
public. Fifty years ago Australian picture buyers were 
content with the sweepings of English studios. When 
Julian Ashton arrived in Melbourne in 1878 he painted 
half a dozen small impressionist renderings of Australian 
landscape, and exhibited them in the front window of the 
Age office. Crowds stopped to look at them ; but nobody 
seemed to realise that they were for sale. Ashton had 
not intended to settle in Australia ; but before packing his 
bags for return to England he decided to see Sydney. 
Sydney charmed him, and he met there some Americans, 
who engaged him as an illustrator for The Picturesque 
Atlas of Australasia. So for three years (1883-1886) he 
swayed and jolted over Australia in the coaches of Cobb 
and Co., and understood its immensity of light and 
space. He painted what he saw, and for forty years has 
taught his pupils to see and to paint what they see. He 
is not a great painter, but he is a great teacher, and, if 
need be, a fighter. Before the war he persuaded some of 
the painters whom he had trained to open a shop in 
Sydney. The shop succeeded. Private dealers followed. 
The war helped to make Australians confident in their 
capacities, and, since 1916, a periodical called Art in 
Australia, with its attractive printing and reproductions, 
has most successfully popularised the achievements of 
Australian artists. 




Australian painting falls within the short modem period 
between “plein air ” and “ significant form.” In tech- 
nique it is always conservative, escaping the violent 
fluctuations of fashion which occur in Europe, and trail- 
ing after European progress. It has not written a new 
chapter in the history of art, although it should find a 
place in the history of impressionism. It should find a 
very important place in the history of the Australian 
people. For the painters have revealed Australia to the 
Australians. This is an achievement of the last fifty 
years. There were, of course, painters in Australia 
before the eighties. Some of them had merely visited 
the country, either of their own free will or (like the 
notorious Waynwright) under compulsion ; others, like 
John Glover, had lived there. But there had been no 
continuity of tradition, and little understanding of 
Australia's peculiar content, until Louis Buvelot settled 
in Victoria in 1865. He did not teach, but he was an 
example to the younger men. One of them, Tom 
Roberts, returned to Australia in 1884, after four years 
in Europe, and began to record, with a generous use of 
paint, the life of stations and shearing-sheds and Austra- 
lia’s unlimited out-of-doors. In 1888 two other young 
men, Conder and Streeton, joined Roberts in a camp at 
Heidelburg, near Melbourne. A few years later Streeton 
moved to New South Wales. It was he who created 
"the blue, the gold, of Sydney.” His technique was 
simple, but he knew how to work within its limitations. 
’It was sufficient to express upon canvas his direct, 
enthusiastic vision of Australia’s blue distances, of “the 
purple noon’s transparent light.” Through Streeton, the 
Australians discovered their country, suddenly, as if by 
revelation. His landscapes have become Australia, just 
as Perugino’s skies are Umbria. His vision is part of 

Literature and Art 307 

Australian nationality, so that exiled Australians, when 
they try to remember their country, call to mind the pic- 
tures which Streeton painted for them. Streeton’s land- 
scapes are a national habit. 

For the artist, every habit is bad. Streeton left 
Australia in 1897 an d did not return until after the war ; 
but the habit of imitating Streeton’s work of forty years 
ago still persists, so that one frequently feels, after 
attending an exhibition of Australian paintings, that one 
has seen them all before. Perhaps the duty upon 
imported pictures helps to keep alive the horde of half- 
trained, unprofessional sketchers whose pretty super- 
ficialities pass from the art exhibitions and shops to crowd 
the walls of thousands of suburban houses. But fiscal 
protection does no more than emphasise Australia’s 
natural isolation. ‘ ‘ From the minute that one lands in 
Australia,” says Hardy Wilson, ‘‘stagnation begins.” 
Yet even isolation may have its advantages. In Austra- 
lia’s cities it is hard not to think this. A rapid succession 
of architectural vulgarities, each one more blatant than 
the last, has for nearly a century deluged upon Australia 
and swamped the early tradition of dignified construction 
which Hardy Wilson himself has finely illustrated in his 
drawings of Old Colonial Architecture , A restless spirit 
of innovation and experiment may not be altogether 
desirable in a country where there is little educated 
criticism and no ballast of aesthetic experience. And, 
if Australian artists are usually a generation behind their 
European masters in technique, Australia herself is sug- 
gestive of many new forms. Streeton revealed Australian 
distances, but he was unable to handle the detailed 
problems of Australian foregrounds. The solution of 
these problems has been the special task of Hans 
Heysen, a painter who has affinities with the Barbizon 



school, and who has deliberately accepted isolation as 
something which harmonises with his own temperament 
and needs. Heysen lives at Hahndorf in South Australia, 
where the peasant landscapes of Germany are set amidst 
the Australian Bush. He makes no experiments with 
the technique which he acquired years ago in Europe, 
and renders without effort a life and landscape to which 
he has become attuned. He has, among other things, 
devoted himself to the “ portraiture ” of the gum tree. 
Somebody had to explain this tree. It is the most con- 
stant feature of Australian landscapes. Visitors to 
Australia still think it monotonous when merged in the 
forest mass, untidy and straggling when it stands alone. 
It is a tree which conforms to no pattern, and whose 
down-hanging, flickering leaves absorb and reflect the 
sunshine. It suggests endless problems of form and light 
and shade. Heysen’s rendering of this various and fas- 
cinating tree in many forms and atmospheres has been 
a necessary stage in the discovery of Australia by the 
Australians. In Heysen’s country there is no wilder- 
ness ; the Bush is a graceful frame for intimate and 
civilised landscapes. Heysen has painted a rural civilisa- 
tion in an atmosphere of “study to be quiet.” He uses 
all the methods of his craft, and has probably won his 
greatest successes in water-colour. Quite recently he left 
little farms and forests and travelled north to a vivid and 
primitive country of Arabian landscapes and Arabian 
names — Arkaba, Wilpena, Brachina, Edina. There he 
transcribed a new Australia of dry, flat light, hard skies, 
clamorous reds and ochres, Dolomite masses and sharp 
forms — “a landscape of fundamentals.” 

One feels that the Australian painters have been 
accumulating and cataloguing the materials of their 
country. A great deal of Australian art is in the local 

Literature and Art 309 

colour stage. Among the painters of the Pacific coast 
who follow the Streeton tradition there is a fairly long 
list of popular names. Two water-colour artists, J. J. 
Hilder and Blamire Young, have won affectionate 
approval in Australia for work which is more individual. 
Hilder’s shy and delicate temperament expressed itself in 
a subjective idealisation of Bush landscapes by means of 
decorative tones. Blamire Young has spoken of him- 
self as “ a sort of unacademic romantic.” He graduated 
through poster painting, and composes patterns upon 
which he builds decorative schemes of colour tints. He 
has selected from Australian landscapes the values 
which inspire his romantic fantasies, and has rejected 
everything else. The Australian public has on the whole 
accepted him gracefully as ‘ ‘ a constant and delightful 

A band of competent Victorian painters has for a 
considerable time been in revolt against the idealisers of 
Australian landscape. The artists of Melbourne derive 
some advantage (or should derive it) from the Felton 
Bequest, which enables the Melbourne Art Gallery to 
compete with wealthy picture buyers in the salerooms of 
Europe. The director of the Melbourne Gallery, Bernard 
Hall, has exercised for twenty years a sound, if rather 
conventional, influence upon students in the Melbourne 
schools. But a more extensive influence has been exer- 
cised by Max Meldrum, who has trained a generation of 
Melbourne painters to deny the artist’s right to select, to 
make patterns, to ‘‘express his personality.” Art, 
Meldrum has taught, is nothing more than the science 
of optical expressions. Manual dexterity is a snare ; an 
honest eye is everything. Painting is “an impersonal 
translation of Nature up to the limits of the medium 
employed.” Even Meldrum’ s critics admit that he knows 



how to paint correct values. His admirers assert that his 
work is of decisive importance in the history of Australian 
painting. His pupils have preached and practised his 
austere gospel with enthusiasm. Since it is their aim to 
achieve “an impersonal translation of Nature,” it would 
be inappropriate to mention any of them by name. 
They are, indeed, a competent band who have won con- 
siderable success in submerging their own individuality. 

Literary men usually make themselves ridiculous when 
they attempt to evaluate the achievements of artists who 
employ a technique which is entirely different from their 
own. The purpose of this chapter is not to deliver 
verdicts but to describe, so far as a layman may, the 
growth of Australian art and its effect upon the growth 
of the Australian people. It is a new thing in Australia 
that painters should be able to live by their craft, and it 
is significant that the people have persistently demanded 
from their painters renderings of Australian landscape. 
There are in Australia only a few figure painters (Lam- 
bert, Longstaff, Mclnnes, are the chief) of any quality. 
The landscape artists have done a good deal to carry 
Australian patriotism beyond the modified racial self- 
consciousness implied in the phrase ‘ ‘ Independent 
Australian Britons.” By their discoveries of landscape 
they have stimulated a love of country and a patriotism 
of place. This is indisputable history. But it would be 
presumptuous in an historian to judge between theories 
and reputations and offer a pretence of art criticism. 
All that he dare attempt is an exposition of the more 
obvious tendencies and influences. The strongest influ- 
ence in contemporary Australian art is that of George W. 
Lambert. He is anathema to the “pure science” 
school, for he has cultivated great technical dexterity 
and does not conceal his own emphatic personality. 

Literature and Art 

3 ” 

Julian Ashton recounts how he met Lambert after paying 
two or three visits to a gallery where his recently painted 
self portrait was hanging : 

“ Your portrait is creating quite a sensation,” I said. 

‘‘Yes, it’s a good thing,” he replied. 

‘‘Of course, it has your affectations, Lambert.” 

‘‘I like my affectations, Julian Ashton.” 

‘‘ Well, I’m not going to quarrel with them so long as 
they are painted like that. ...” 

Lambert had left Australia in 1899, and when he 
returned twenty-two years later he brought back with 
him, not merely self-confidence and a reputation, but 
the knowledge which he had gained in a persistent experi- 
mental investigation of the history of European art. His 
return was shattering to the provincial complacency of 
local painters. It coincided with (and has helped to 
cause) what has been called “ a new vision of Australian 
landscape.” This new vision is certainly not very 
startling. A few Sydney painters, to the scandal of the 
ordinary picture-buying public, have made a complete 
break with naturalism ; but, with the conservative 
majority, the ' ‘ new vision ’ ’ signifies little more than a new 
interest in design and composition and a belated reaction 
against imitative diffuseness. This tendency is apparent 
in the work of one of the most substantial of Australian 
landscape artists, Elioth Gruner. Twenty years ago 
Gruner had already carried the interpretation of Austra- 
lian landscape a stage beyond the revelation of Streeton. 
Whereas Streeton had painted distances in the vertical 
light of noon, Gruner had painted Australian foregrounds 
in the romantic half-lights of morning and evening. He 
has now become dissatisfied with his own reputation, and 
has returned from a visit to Europe to express his old 
themes in “the curt speech of the present day.”' 



Gruner’s work is quiet ; he has painted in New South 
Wales what Heysen has painted at Hahndorf — not the 
wildness, but the settled civilisation of Australia. 

That large section of the Australian urban community 
which enjoys moderate middle-class comfort is naturally 
attracted by the process of etching, which makes it 
possible to distribute original works on many drawing- 
room walls at a moderate price. Australian artists, 
both good and bad, have not neglected their oppor- 
tunity. It has been asserted that the annual sales 
of the Australian Society of Painter-Etchers (founded 
in 1920) considerably exceed those of its London 
parent, the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers 1 Some 
of the black-and-white artists of the Bulletin made 
early experiments in etching ; but serious devotion to 
the craft began about 1895 with John Shirlow. Among 
the competent workmen who have followed Shirlow are 
Lionel Lindsay, Norman Lindsay, Sydney Long, Sydney 
Ure Smith, and Van Raalte, who has done for the gum 
tree on copper something of what Heysen has done for 
it on canvas. Lionel Lindsay has a chivalrous outlook 
on life which has expressed itself, not only in his etchings, 
but in his water-colours and in generous appreciations 
of his fellow artists. He has also experimented in wood 
engraving, and in this medium, as in etching, his work 
is finished and beautiful. His brother, Norman Lindsay, 
rivals Melba as a national figure. He began his career 
as a black-and-white artist for the Bulletin, and 
developed his technique with the pen to its furthest pos- 
sible limits in creating figure compositions which seem to 
blaze with light. It is doubtful whether he has ever sur- 
passed these pen drawings of his middle period. His 
interest in light led him through etching to water-colour. 
The critics acknowledge the daring and power of his com- 

Literature and Art 3x3 

positions, but blame him for carelessness and downright 
bad drawing. Norman Lindsay despises the critics and 
claims his right as a creative genius to be a law unto 
himself. Unfortunately, he is not merely a law, but a 
gospel. He has proclaimed the gospel so often and has 
interwoven it so inseparably with his art that he has given 
to the layman unusual liberties of criticism. One can 
argue with a Presbyterian minister out of church. 
Norman Lindsay’s religion is a sort of topsy-turvy Puri- 
tanism. It is as if a seventeenth-century Antinomian 
from Massachusetts had won miraculous access to the 
works of Nietzsche and Freud. Norman Lindsay has 
created in Australia a small sect which allows itself to 
grow excited about its dislike of the clergy and to grow 
lyrical about “satyrs and sunlight.” He has clouded his 
clear vision of beauty with propaganda. And yet the 
vision is there, and with it an intense conviction that 
Australia cannot live by bread alone. Posterity may re- 
member him as a genius who to Australia gave up what 
was meant for mankind. Yet this criticism misses the 
mark, for it has been Norman Lindsay’s ambition to use 
his powers in giving Australia to mankind. Like another 
Australian artist, Will Dyson, he holds “the creed of 
every artist and writer that nothing exists until it has 
been drawn or written down.” He believes, with Bernard 
O’ Dowd, that it is the function of art to “turn a mob 
into a people.” For without the definition of style, of 
art, there can be no nation ; there can be only an aggre- 
gate of units — the raw material of a nation. So much of 
Australia is still raw material. But already the image of 
an Australian nation is emerging, as if from a sculptor’s 
unfinished marble. 

One hundred years ago Australia was still a gaol. 
Some of her greatest cities are less than a century old. 


3i 4 

The poets have seen truly that Australia’s life is in the 
future. It may extend through European centuries ; it 
may be short. Australia lies opposite an awakening Asia. 
She shares a civilisation whose destiny is beyond predic- 


1788. Sydney founded. 

1 797. John Macarthur imports merino sheep. 

1804. Hobart founded. 

1813. The Blue Mountains crossed. 

The “ Eastern Interior ” lies open. 

1814. Flinders suggests the name “ Australia.” 

1822. Macarthur’s wool judged equal to the best Saxon. 

1823. First limitations upon the autocratic powers of 


1824. First settlement in what is now Queensland. 

1829. Wakefield publishes his Letter from Sydney. 

Great Britain claims the whole of Australia. 
Foundation of Western Australia. 

1830. Sturt journeys down Murrumbidgee to Murray mouth, 

and back again. 

1835. John Batman at Melbourne. 

1836. Foundation of South Australia. 

1840. Discontinuance of transportation to mainland of 

1842. Majority of elected members in Legislative Council of 
New South Wales. 

1849. Final end of all forms of convictism in all parts of 

Australia except Western Australia. 

1850. Erection of Victoria as a separate colony. 

Australian colonies given power to alter their own 


Foundation of first Australian university at Sydney. 

1851. The discoveries of Edward Hargreaves and the begin- 

ning of the gold-rushes. 

1854. “ Our own little rebellion.” 

The first Australian railway. 



3 l6 

1:855-57. Responsible Government in four colonies. 

1855. First anti-Chinese legislation. 

1856. Ballot system in Victoria and South Australia. 

1 859. Queensland a separate colony. 

1860. McDouall Stuart in Central Australia. 

1861. Burke and Wills cross Australia from south to north. 
1861. Robertson Land Act in New South Wales opens the 

battle of democracy versus squatters. 

1865-66. First Protectionist tariff established in Victoria 
amidst political and constitutional conflict. 

1867. Transportation abolished in Western Australia. 

1870. British troops withdrawn from Australia. 

1872. The overland telegraph opened. 

1879. First intercolonial conference of trade unions. 

1880. The Bulletin founded. 

1883. Mcllwraith annexes New Guinea and is repudiated. 

1884. German annexations in New Guinea. 

Great Britain annexes Papua. 

1885. A Federal Council: the first step to Federation. 

1890. The maritime strike. 

1891. A strong Labour party in the New South Wales Par- 


First Australasian Federal Convention. 

1893. Federation becomes a popular movement. 

Collapse of the land boom. 

1897-98. The Federal Convention. 

1900. The Commonwealth established. 

1901. Immigration Restriction Act. 

A compromise tariff. 

1905. Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration 

1908. The compromise tariff gives place to a Protectionist 


First Labour Government in the Commonwealth. 
Canberra chosen as site for the Federal capital. 

1909. Compulsory military service established. 

1911. First referendum for extended Commonwealth powers 
over industry. 

1914. “The last man and the last shilling.” 

A Short List of Dates in Australia’s History 317 

1915. Anzac. 

1916. Split in the Labour party and first conscription re- 


1919. Australia signatory of Peace of Versailles and an 
original member of the League of Nations. 

The Ross-Smith flight. 

1923. Beginning of the Bruce-Page Government. 

1926. The Balfour Report. 

1927. Opening of Parliament House at Canberra. 

1929. Fall of the Bruce-Page Ministry — Labour in Power. 

Note. — The above is to a large extent a selection from 
the excellent chronology in Ernest Scott's Short History of 


The aim of this note is not to make a list, even of the more 
important sources (books, pamphlets , articles, parliamentary 
papers, etc.) that have been used in this book, but to mention 
some of the more general works which are likely to interest 
the reader. He can easily extend his knowledge of special 
topics, if he wishes to, by following up references , It will be 
convenient to group this list according to the four parts of 
the book . 


Ernest Scott's Short History of Australia (Oxford Uni- 
versity Press) or Arthur Jose's Short History of Australasia 
(Angus and Robertson) makes a good introduction. The 
Cambridge History of the British Empire will soon publish 
its volume on Australasia. In Australia economic history is 
of fundamental importance. The reader must wait for 
Professor Shann's Growth of the Australian Economy (Cam- 
bridge), mentioned in the Preface. No less important is 
geography, and in this field the work of Professor Griffith 
Taylor is indispensable. Australia, Physiographic and 
Economic (Oxford University Press) is the best book to 
begin with. There is a good History of Australian Land 
Settlement, by S. H. Roberts (Macmillan). There is no 
complete history of immigration to- Australia. The Systematic 
Colonisation of Australia, by R. C. Mills (Sidgwick and 
Jackson) covers the Wakefield period. Myra Willard's 
History of Free Immigration into New South Wales, of 
which much use was made in Chapter II, is unpublished, 
but the same authoress has published a reliable History of 
the White Australia Policy (Melbourne University Press). 
A reader wishing to get some idea of Australia's democracy 
and nationalism might perhaps begin with Walter Murdoch's 
Life of Alfred Deakin (Constable); Albert Metin's Le 


Notes on Books 


Socialisme sans Doctrines (Paris, 1901); A new Province 
for Law and Order, by Mr. Justice Higgins; and V. S. 
Clarke’s The Labour Movement in Australia (London, 1906). 
Finally, it is necessary to mention the two-volume Australian 
Encyclopedia (Angus and Robertson), which will introduce 
the reader to a host of fascinating topics and suggest how 
he may follow them up. 


Economic studies have made a notable advance in Australia 
in recent years, especially since the foundation of the 
Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, which pub- 
lishes The Economic Record, a half-yearly journal, which is 
indispensable to students of Australian affairs. The present 
writer has made considerable use of articles by R. C. Mills, 
Carter Gooderich, C. H. Wickens, F. Bland, and other con- 
tributors to The Economic Record. The Melbourne Uni- 
versity Press has recently published two volumes for the 
Institute of Pacific Relations — The Peopling of Australia 
and Studies in Australian Affairs. There are good essays in 
both volumes; the latter has two particularly good essays, 
one by D. T. Sawkins on The Australian Standard of Living, 
the other by R. C. Mills on Australian Loan Policy. R. C. 
Mills and H. Benham will shortly publish a study of Banking 
in Australia. A short book by M. H. Davidson, Central 
Banking (Angus and Robertson), deals excellently with this 
subject. The Prosperity of Australia (P. S. King, 1927) is an 
interesting study written by Mr. Benham before the slump. 
The Australian Tariff: An Economic Inquiry, by five expert 
authors (statisticians, professors, and a business man), was 
published by the Melbourne University Press in 1929. The 
Fixation of Wages in Australia, by G. Anderson, is an in- 
dispensable compilation. When F. W. Eggleston has pub- 
lished his State Socialism in Australia the whole field of 
Australian political economy will have been worked over — 
extensively, if not intensively. 




Australian politics have been written about with less care 
and precision than Australian economics. Only the Labour 
party has received adequate attention. The best studies on 
it are by G. V. Portus. They are to be found in Australia: 
Economic and Political, edited by Meredith Atkinson 
(Macmillan), and in Colwell’s Story of Australia, vol. v. 
There is also an excellent article by Professor Gooderich 
in The Economic Record. Sutcliffe has written The History 
of Trade Unionism in Australia (Macmillan). Those who 
wish for a sort of current history of Australian (and other) 
politics should read The Round Table . There is no general 
history of Australia's foreign relations, but The Pacific: 
Its Past and Future, by G. H. Scholefield (Murray), puts 
together a good deal of interesting information. J. G. 
Latham’s Australia and the British Commonwealth (Mac- 
millan, 1929) deals with the subject chiefly from the legal 
point of view. Half a dozen books are published on 
Dominion Status every year. The most satisfactory of them 
is The Present Juridical Status of the Dominions in Inter- 
national Law (Longmans), by Professor Noel Baker. Pro- 
fessor Arnold Toynbee’s The Conduct of British Empire 
Policy since the War (Royal Institute of International 
Affairs) deals with the subject in the concrete. The Australian 
Mandate for New Guinea, edited by F. W. Eggleston, is 
published by the Melbourne University Press for the Insti- 
tute of Pacific Relations and the League of Nations Union. 


H. W. Green has written a short essay on the history of 
Australian literature and is planning a book on the subject. 
Nettie Palmer has written a short history (Lothian Publish- 
ing Co.) starting in 1900. The best anthology of Australian 
verse is by Percival Serle (Robertson and Mullen), who has 
also compiled a Bibliography of Australian Poetry (Robert- 
son and Mullen). There are two anthologies of Australian 

Notes on Books 3 31 

Short Stories, one by Nettie Palmer (Angus and Robertson), 
the other by G. Mackaness (Dent). To get an idea of paint- 
ing, the reader should consult Art in Australia, especially 
Australian Landscape Painters of To-day (1930). But there 
is no real substitute for seeing pictures and reading books. 



Aborigines, 32-33, 80 
Adams, Francis, 286 
Agriculture and Agricultural 
Science, 22-30, 55, 96-100, 125, 
129, 138-139, 168-169, *7*i I 9 1- 
192, 234 

America, United States of, com- 
parisons and contrasts 
with, 19, 52, 248, 269- 

relations with, 252-256, 

Arbitration, 84-86, 92, 115-119, 
134, 180-186, 203, 217-220, 227, 

Archibald, J. F., 283, 295 
Art, 57. 304-314 
Artesian water, 17, 19, 17 1 
Ashton, Julian, 305, 31 1 
Asiatic immigration, 42-48, 51-52, 
6r, 67, 78-80, and see Immigra- 
tion Restriction 
Asquith, 238 

Assisted immigration, 42-48, 51- 
52, i49i I53-IS4 

Australian accent and vocabu- 
lary, 41, 292-293, 304 
Australian Council of Trade 
Unions, 215-216 

Australian Democracy. See especi- 
ally Chapters IV. and XIII., 
but the whole book is an essay 
on Australian democracy. 
Australian Encyclopedia , 35 
Australian Imperial Forces. See 
Australian Soldiers 
Australian Labour Federation, 

Australian Labour Party (A.L.P.). 

See Labour Party 
Australian landscapes, 16, 30, 34- 
35* 54-57, 285, 290-291, 294, 
( 3<>5-3i2 

Australian Nationalism, 48, Chap- 
ter III. passim , 89, 2 12-213, 
215, 243, 283, 295-296, 298, 310 
Australian Natives* Association, 
64. 273 

Australian Navy, 247-248 
Australian soldiers, 50, 53, 69, 
248-249, 286, 302 

Australian Workers’ Union 
A.W.U.), 199, 216 

Banking, 24, 139, 165-167, 227 
Banks, Sir Joseph, 12 
Barton, Sir Edmund, 247, 258 
Basic wage, 85, 180-182, and see 
Standard of Living 
Bean, C. E. W., 286 
Belligerency, active and passive, 

Benham, Dr. 101, 192 
Bismarck, 245 
Bland, F. W., 144 
Blocksidge, William, 301-302 
Borrowing, 67, 71, 90, 116, 136, 
i53> i5 6 - r 62, 163-165, 169, 261 
Brennan, C. J., 300 
British Commonwealth of Na- 
tions. See Imperial Relations 
British Economic Mission, 161- 
162, 164-165, 168 
British Navy, 60, 67, 251, and see 

British sentiment, 33, 53, 54, 66- 
68, 151-152, 255 

British stock, Chapter II. fassim, 
and 68, 151-152, 198, 255, 269, 

Bruce, Hon. S. M., 150, 155, 156, 
2 37> 238 

Bruce-Page Government, 237-238 
Buchanan, Sir George, 173 
Bulletin , the, 64, 66, 212, 247, 
2*3, 295-296 



Bureaucracy. See Civil Service 
Bush, the, 55-56, 287, 297-298 
Buvelot, Louis, 306 

Canberra, 76, 226, 277-282, 285 
Carnarvon, Lord, 244 
Cattle, 20, 172-176 
Caucus, 209 

Central Australia, 20, 33, 173-176 
Chamberlain, Joseph, 77, 260 
Chartists, 71, 72, 73, 198 
Child endowment, 182 
Chisholm, Caroline, 44 
Civil Service, 122, 123, 142, 276 
Clarke, Marcus, 56, 290 
Cobb and Co., 32, 305 
Collins, Tom, 297 
Commonwealth Bank. See Bank- 

Commonwealth Constitution, 76- 
77, 127, 278, Chapter 
VI. passim 

amendment of, 126, 226, 
and see Unification 
Commonwealth Court of Conci- 
liation and Arbitration. See 

Commonwealth and States, co- 
operation between, 125, 
127, 149, 164 
financial agreement be- 
tween, 114 
Communists, 200, 215 
Compulsory military training. See 
Conder, C., 306 
Conscription, 205, 249 
Convicts, 37-41, 60 
Cook, Captain, 271 
Council of Scientific and Indus- 
trial Research, 125, 168 
Country Party, 232-238 
Country Progressive Party, 163, 

Darling Downs, 31 
Darling River, 13, 16, 17 
Deakin, Alfred, 65, 79, 83, 91, 
226-230, 233, 237, 246-251, 257, 

Desert, 20 


Development and Migration Com- 
mission, 125, 150, 163-164, 167 
Dominion status, 239, 243, 256- 

Dumping, 30, 97-98, 237, 305 
Durham, Lord, 256 
Dvson, Will, 313 

Eggleston, Hon, F. W M 130 ff, 
Eldershaw, H. Barnard, 203 
Electoral laws, 206-207 
Empire. See Imperial Relations 
Empire Marketing Board, 168, 

Empire Settlement Act, 146-155 
Employer s’ Liability Acts, 186 
Engineers’ Case, 1 17-120 
Esson, Louis, 304 
Exploration, 12-20 
Eyre, Lake, 17 

“ Fair and reasonable,” 64, 72, 
83-84, 96-97, 100, 132, 156, 225, 
227, 234, 237, 282, 283 
Fairbridge, Kingsley, 43 
Farmers’ and Settlers’ Associa- 
tions, 234 

Farrer, William, 27, 30 
Federal capital, 27, and see Can- 

Federation, 64-65, 295, ^ and see 
Commonwealth Constitution 
Federation, State disabilities due 
to, 103-109, 137 
Felton Bequest, 309 
Field, Barron, 290 
First Fleet, 31, 34 
Fisher, Andrew, 213, 214, 229, 
247, 266 

Foreign policy, 65-66, and Chap- 
ter XII. passim 
Forests, 34, 56-57 
Forty-four Hours’ Week Case, 118 
Four Power Treaty, 264 
Free Trade, 83, 96, xoo, 226-228, 


French Revolution, 32 
Fusion, the, 229 

Gallipoli, 302 

Geography, Chapter I. passim , 



69-71, 105, 167-176, 191. 198, 
269, and see Strategical Posi- 

Gladstone, William Ewart, 246 
Glover, John, 306 
Gold-rushes, 22, 50-51, 200, 293 
Gordon, Adam Lindsay, 294-295 
Grey, Earl, 45, 65 
Sir George, 66 
Griffin, W. B., 279-280 
Gruner, Elioth, 311, 312 

Hall, Bernard, 309 
Harvester Equivalent, 184-186 
Heysen, Hans, 307-308 
Higgins, Mr. Justice, 84, 181, 
184, 283 

High Court of Australia, 115-120 
Higinbotham, George, 246 
Hilder, J. J., 309 
Horton, Wilmot, 42, 43 
Hughes, William Morris, 68, 
229, 237, 240-241, 243, 250 
Hume, Hamilton, 59 

Immigration, Chapter II. passim, 
106, Chapter VIII. passim 
Immigration restriction, 77-81, 
152, 239-240, and see Asiatic 

Imperial economic relations, 260- 


Imperial preference, 99, 226, 260- 


Imperial relations, 64-68, 81, 148, 
213, 256-266, and Chapter XII. 

Imperial Zollverein, 260 
Industrial Revolution, 32, 274 
Industrial Transference Board, 
42, 151-154 . 

Interstate Commission, 109 
Irrigation, 17, 130, 161, 236 

Kendall, Henry, 294 
Kingsley, Henry, 291 

Labour, conditions of See Stand- 
ard of Living 

Labour party, 62, 73, 74, 83, 121, 
126, 154, 167, 222, 223, 225, 226, 

228, 229, 230, 233, 236, 247-248, 
283, and Chapter X. passim 
Lambert, G. W., 310-311 
Land legislation, 22-25, 61, 71, 

Land settlement, 71, 138-139, 149, 
163-164, 168 

Lane, William, 199, 201 
Lang, John Dunmore, 48-49, 51, 
65, 241 

Lawson, Henry, 57, 61, 295, 297 
League of Nations, 246, 249-250, 
, 2 59» 263 

Liberal party, 72, 224-229, 231- 

Lindsay, Lionel, 312 
Norman, 312-314 
Literature, 58-59, and Chapter 
XIV. passtm 
Loan Council, 125, 164 
Loan policy. See Borrowing 
Local government, 69-70, 116, 

123, 273 

Long, Sidney, 312 
Longstaff, Sir John, 310 

Macarthur, John, 12, 13, 27, 30, 
46, 168 

Macgregor, Sir William, 245 
Mcllwraith, Sir Thomas, 65, 241, 
242, 244 

Mclnnes, W B., 310 
Macquarie, Governor, 39 
Mallee, 27, 163 

Markets and marketing, 30, 98, 
i 55 - i 5 6 » 223, and see Imperial 

Marshall, Chief Justice, 119 
Maurice, Furnley, 300 
Melba, 312 

Meldrum, Max, 309, 310 
“ Middling Standard/ 1 272-273, 
282, 288 

Mills, Professor 159 
Monroe Doctrine, 67 
Morris, Myra, 302 
Murray River, 13, 34, 126 
Murray, Sir Hubert, 245 

National Labour party, 229, 231, 



Nationalist party, 223, 229-232, 
238, Chapter XI. passim 
Neilson, Shaw, 300 
New Australia, 200 
New Guinea, 66, 240-242, 244-246 
mandate in, 240, 245-246 
New-protection, 83, 225, 238 
New States, 123, 235, 237 
Nineteen Counties, 14 
Non-Britishers in Australia, 53, 

151-152, 238 

North Australia, 33, 173 

O’Dowd, Bernard, 298-299, 313 

Pacific islands, 49, 65-66, 240-244 
Pacific Ocean, 49, 249, 251-254 

Monroe Doctrine for, 243 
Page, Dr. Earle, 235, 237 
Palmer, Vance, 302, 303 
Pan-Pacific Secretariat, 215 
Papua, 245-246, 296, and see New 

Parkes, Sir Henry, 39, 64 
Pastoralists. See Squatters, and | 
171-176, 235 1 

Paterson, “ Banjo,” 295 
Paterson, Hon. T., 96 
Pensions, 186, 213 
Physical characteristics of Austra- 
lians, 52, 53 
Pitt, William, n 
Political ideas. See especially 
Chapter IV. passim 
Population, Australia’s capacity 
to hold, 176, 193 
city concentration of, 176, 

187-191. 304 „ 

rate of increase, 140 ff., 161 
optimum , 185, 193 
Preference. See Imperial Prefer- 

Premiers’ Conference, 125 
Prichard, Katharine, 302 
Prosperity of Australia, 162, 193 
Protection, 62, 83-S4, 86, 103-108, 
128, 190-192, 225-228, 257, 200" 
a6x, 304, and Chapter V. 

Provincial sentiment, 76, 104 f}., 

Rabbits, 34-35, 37 
Railways. See Transport and 
Rainfall, 19, 20, 174 
Reid, Sir George, 227, 229 
Returned Soldiers’ League, 274 
Richardson, Henry Handel, 303 
Riverina, 31 

Roads. See Transport and Com- 
Robespierre, 38 
Roberts, Tom, 306 
Russell, Lord John, 257, 262 

Secession, 104, 108, 123-124 
“ Selection.” See Land Legisla- 

Senate, 12 1 
Shann, Professor, 55 
Sheep, 22, 35, 172, 174. and see 
Wool and Squatters 
Sheep dogs, 289 
Shirlow, John, 312 
Socialism, 77. 200-201, 214, 222, 
276, and see Chapter VII. 

Squatters, 14, 16, 22, 24, 31, 61 
Standard of living, 85, 8g, 96, 
248, 274-275, and Chapter IX. 

Staplcdon, Professor, 35 
State Rivers and Water Supply 
Board, 131 , 

States, sovereignty of, 115, and 
Chapter VI. passim 
Stephens, Brunton, 293 
Stirling, Governor, 46 
Strategical position of Australia, 
240-242, 264, 314 
Streeton, Arthur, 306-307, 311 
Sturt, Captain Charles, 13, 14 
Suez Canal, 3*, 253 
Sugar, 107, 170-171 
Surplus revenue, no 
Syme, David, 224-225, 229, 303 

Tariff. See Protection 
Tariff, the Australian, an econo. 

mic inquiry, 94-102 
Tariff Board, 9i-94> i° a » z 3 8 



Taxation, no ff., 136, 149, 159, 

Taylor, Dr. Griffith, 168-169 
^34,000,000 Agreement, 149-150 
Thomson, Robert, 62 
Tocqueville, Alexis de, 183, 269 ff. 
Torrens, Lake, 16 
Trade, direction of, 253 
Trade unionism, 51, 54, 92, 93, 
1 80-181, 197-204, 207, 215-220 
Transport and communications, 
27-32, 70, * 12, 132-137, 173-174 
Treaties, 257-259 
Tropical Australia, 169-176 
Turner, W. J., 300 

Unemployment, 163, 190, 223, 248 
Unification, 76-77, 12 1, 183 
Ure Smith, Sydney, 312 

Vaux, James Hardy, 41 

Wages Boards, 117, 217 
Wakefield, Edward Gibbon, u, 
15, 22, 46-48, 69, 155 
Water supply, 17-20, 24, 141, and 
see Rainfall, Irrigation 
Wayn wright, 306 
Wentworth, William Charles, 60- 
61, 140 

Wheat, 25-28, 97, 99, 100, 103, 
105, 141, 235, 236 
White Australia, 77-81, and see 
Immigration Restriction 
Wilson, Hardy, 307 
Wool, 11-20, 28, 45, 98, 103, 172, 

Workers’ Compensation Acts, 186 
Young, Blamire, 309